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Hogans tour Asian-owned businesses in Maryland

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), standing right, along with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, his wife, Shani Ball, and first lady Yumi Hogan, at Hot Pot Hero in Ellicott City, Md. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his wife, Yumi, an immigrant from South Korea, toured Asian-owned businesses in Howard County on Monday and called for action to address a spike in hate incidents and violence against Asians in the United States.

The couple spoke at a news conference after touring a string of Asian-owned businesses at the Princess Shopping Center in Ellicott City, including a nail salon, hot pot restaurant and beauty supply store.

Their last stop was the Honey Pig Restaurant — a Korean barbecue place they said they often visited with their three adult daughters before the coronavirus pandemic.

The recent spate of violence against Asian Americans, starting well before last week’s fatal shootings at Atlanta-area massage spas, has hit close to home for the Hogan family. Several weeks ago, the governor said, their youngest daughter said she was afraid to drive to visit them because the parent of one of her Asian friends had been assaulted at a gas station.

“As a husband and a father, I’m sickened by the racism they have experienced all their lives,” Hogan said. He urged other elected officials to condemn the violence, adding that he has directed state law enforcement agencies to increase protection of Asian businesses and communities.

Asian Americans see shootings as culmination of a year of racism

On Lunar New Year’s Eve this year, four Asian-owned busi­nesses in Howard County were vandalized and burglarized, he noted. Nationwide, there has been a spike in violence and harassment toward Asian Americans reported since the start of the pandemic, which President Donald Trump and others derided as the “China virus.”

Since the shootings, Asian Americans have mobilized and increased their demands that perpetrators of hate and violence be held accountable.

“I’m here to lift up the voices of Asian Americans,” Yumi Hogan said. “Asian Americans, we live in fear. But why do we need to be fearful? This is not right.”

Swarmed by a gaggle of reporters after the news event, she answered question after question, switching between English and Korean. Monday’s event, she said, is just the start — she plans to do more and speak out more about anti-Asian hate.

“Asian Americans, it's not our culture to speak out, especially the first generation. Because why? Because working all the time,” she said in English. “But now, now is the time to speak out.”

After enduring racism in silence, Asian Americans promise a change

Nuchi Buakhum, 40, owner of Eattini Thai Kitchen at the Princess Shopping Center, said she has been so concerned by the rise of anti-Asian hostility that she recently installed security cameras at the front and back of her restaurant.

After her car was burglarized outside the restaurant last year, she also began instructing her employees — all of whom are Thai — to depart work in groups. She pays for them to take Ubers if they’re leaving at night.

“It’s scary, and it’s unfair. We never target anyone, but they target us just because we’re Asian,” she said, adding that she has friends in New York and Florida who have been taunted for their race.

Xuanbich Nguyen, 36, said she heard about the Atlanta shootings but hasn’t dwelled too much on the details. Originally from Vietnam, she runs Bliss Nails & Spa at the strip mall with her husband. She works seven days a week and uses what little rest time she gets to spend with her 4-year-old son, she said.

“Before this pandemic, I wasn’t really scared,” she said in Vietnamese, with her brother interpreting. “Now I hear more about people hating Asian people. But I try not to think too much about it. Every day, we’re working anyway.”