From the County Manager Column from March 23, 2021

Supporting our Asian American employees and community in actions and words

Last week, I said I would be writing this week about the impressive and sustained efforts of our Public Health department as we reflect on the once-in-a-century challenges, change and achievements of this past year. We will be back to recap and celebrate that work soon. However, following last week’s horrific attacks in Atlanta that resulted in the tragic death of eight people – six of whom were women of Asian descent – I have been listening to and talking with Asian American community members and employees here in Ramsey County. And it is important to focus today’s column on a history of and present circumstance in which Asian Americans are targeted during moments of threats that are perceived to have originated outside of the United States. Right now this is due to COVID-19, but in the past it has been for other reasons tied to conflict, immigration or trade. Well-documented racist attacks and discrimination against Asian Americans have again been on the rise over the past year, and yet do not seem to have received the weight of attention and alarm urgently needed. This was a topic of discussion at this morning's board meeting, too.

Across the nation this week there have been protests against the xenophobia and racism that Asian Americans have suffered during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Director of Policy & Planning Elizabeth Tolzmann and a number of other contributors wrote a guest column nearly a year ago about heightened hostilities against Asians. I encourage you to revisit this piece following a year in which one recent study showed an increase of nearly 150% of hate crimes against Asian Americans in our most populous cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the statement by the Saint Paul-based Coalition of Asian American Leaders

In Ramsey County, nearly three of every 20 residents are Asian American – the second-largest racial or ethnic population in our county and by far the highest population among Minnesota counties. According to our 2009 Workforce Statistics Report, 12% of our employees identify as Asian. There have been many articles over the past week about and by Asian Americans detailing racism, both overt and subtle, which has increased dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States a year ago. This is the antithesis of our vision, mission, goals and values and what we wake up for every day or come to work for in Ramsey County. 

If you need to report discrimination or would like to talk with someone about the feelings that events like the attacks in Atlanta can provoke – fear, anger, anguish and a host of others – Ramsey County offers resources for both residents and employees:

External resources

This week, the Diversity, Inclusion and Organizational Development unit in Human Resources and sponsors of the soon-to-be-launched Asian Descent Network employee resource group are working together with Asian American staff to prioritize and develop a series of Healing Circles that will be available for employees. These will be led by experienced individual healers who are embedded in the community and use their lived experiences, expertise and training to facilitate a safe and comfortable environment for participants to express themselves. We’ll publish the schedule of these here on RamseyNet once they are finalized.

As it has been said in many ways through many traditions and through many voices: When one suffers, we all suffer. We again affirm that we stand in support of our co-workers, neighbors and friends by rejecting anti-Asian actions and prejudice here and throughout our nation.   

Returning to last week’s promise, I look forward to revisiting the past year and the indelible effects it has had on our Public Health professionals – and the indelible impact they have had on our community and organization in the weeks ahead. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and that you have a good week.