By JANINE ABDELMUTI and JODY BERGER
Racism is a disease if not treated. Symptoms of racism include name-calling, stereotyping, and racial profiling. COVID-19 is an international pandemic that started in Wuhan, China.
During a Tulsa campaign rally, Donald Trump infamously labeled COVID-19 as “kung flu.” Shortly after, the public, specifically his supporters, followed in the footsteps at Dream City Church in Phoenix, repeatedly chanting the racist phrase “kung flu.” The objective may have been to introduce such a title onto a minority group to incite blame for the current global health crisis.
Saying other racist terms such as “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” amid an international pandemic may have been a factor in the increased spread of racist attacks on Asians. Even with the president later tweeting support for Asian Americans and using racist terms less frequently, is it too late to stop racist attacks against Asian Americans?
In late March, California Congresswoman Judy Chu stated that about 100 hate crimes were committed against Asian Americans each day. By April, during one of the most intense months of quarantine, an IPSOS poll found that three in ten Americans blamed China or Chinese citizens for the virus. California is the site of 46 percent of the nationwide reported attacks, according to an Aug. 27 statement by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. Unfortunately, there is no official tally for how many incidents of racially aimed attacks against Asian Americans have occurred.
Unlike any other community, Little Tokyo will never forget the feeling of hate towards its residents. During World War II, anyone of Japanese descent was forced into internment camps. The reason for their discrimination was based on the fact that they were Japanese and falsely deemed a threat to the United States.
Even though the recent attacks are directed towards Chinese Americans, Asian Americans from other countries of origin are also being blamed for the virus. The majority of residents in Little Tokyo are predominantly of Asian heritage, therefore making them a larger target of discrimination.
A middle-school boy from Los Angeles County was physically attacked and accused of having coronavirus. His attackers’ only reasoning for blaming him for spreading the virus was because he was Asian. Debra Duarado, Los Angeles superintendent of schools, stated, “Hate is something children learn. It doesn’t come naturally to them.” What does this mean for Little Tokyo?
Government officials and political leaders may not be aware of how detrimental the spread of misleading information is on a population. Although there is a surge in racist attacks on Asian Americans, much harm has already occurred. One can only move forward to make sure misleading information that ignites racist rhetoric towards Asian Americans does not happen again. The solution to combating these hostilities would be to deem any physical and verbal attacks unacceptable.
Victims should not live in fear of reporting racist attacks that have occurred and should be reassured their abusers will be punished through the legal system. Asians that are in fear of facing anti-Asian sentiment, or already have, should be aware that these statements are coming from people that are in fear of the pandemic. Policies should be in place when misleading information that causes hate crimes towards a population, especially at the highest level of government.
Los Angeles County has in place a policy of equity. This policy states that the county will not tolerate unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, ancestry, or any characteristic protected by state or federal employment law. Policy-makers should implement a broader definition of equity policy to include protection for students, business owners, and residents.
Contracting a virus is not based on one’s ancestry, culture or race. Labeling a pandemic to presumably incite an accusatory title to a minority further cements the idea that racism is also a public health crisis. Although the world is still waiting for a cure to COVID-19, the cure to racism is found within a push for widespread awareness of truth, accountability and understanding.
Janine Abdelmuti and Jody Berger are USC MSW students. Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.