Because of the prominence of one’s eyes while wearing a mask and with Asian Americans being the first to publicly wear them in response to the pandemic, the underlying animus toward Asians in America has resurfaced. Then with President Trump’s constant referral to the “China” virus, “kung flu” or other snide anti-Asian references, this animus has been further exacerbated.

Anti-Asian prejudice and hate has been a consequential byproduct of the pandemic. The virus that universally is acknowledged to have started in Wuhan, China, along with China being America’s number one economic competitor, has spawned anti-Asian incidents wherever Asians live in the United States.

But make no mistake, anti-Asian prejudice and racism is not new. It has been an American staple throughout our history and although perpetuated by the president’s schoolyard taunts, it did not start with him nor will it end with President Biden’s recent executive actions.

Also, make no mistake, President Biden’s “Memorandum Condemning and Combatting Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States” is greatly appreciated.

It is also the result of the activism of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council here in Los Angeles and their Stop AAPI Hate Campaign. AAPI organizations throughout the United States have been carrying the fight against anti-Asian hate for the duration of the pandemic.

Ex-President Trump (ooh, that feels good) seemed to relish and enjoy stoking the fires of anti-Asian xenophobia. Thankfully, President Biden has embraced the fight against anti-Asian hate and acted on it.

But don’t make one last mistake. As actor Denzel Washington once said in response to a question about race relations, “You can’t legislate love.” He further said, “It’s up to us!”

Something else to appreciate, our frontline workers.

The last war that took place on the American mainland was the Civil War. All the world wars, police actions and regime-change wars have taken place on foreign soil. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic.

The constant body count (COVID deaths), the references to the “front lines,” the use of the term “hazard pay” (combat pay), the toll it is taking on the mental health of our medical workers and other “frontline” workers, in other words “battle fatigue” — all are references related to wartime conditions.

Yes, make no mistake, we are at war and we have to do our part. That being wearing a mask in public, safe and reasonable social distancing, self-monitoring symptoms, getting tested for peace of mind and getting vaccinated.

Us “boomers” all have a scar on our shoulder. This keloid type round scar was the result of the smallpox vaccinations we all received in school. It wasn’t the only vaccination we received. Other diseases you could get vaccinated for were “whooping cough,” diphtheria, the well-known tetanus shot, your annual flu shot, and mumps, measles and polio, “Oh my!”

A bead of sweat is forming on my brow just thinking about nervously waiting in line at school, yes at school, to get a shot. Sometimes a nurse assisting the medical staff administering the vax would distract you by showing you a comic book, but most of the time it was slam, bam, thank you ma’am, ouch!

First, the hypodermic needle, then the “jet” injector gun and my favorite, the sugar cube (Sabin, not Salk polio vaccine), was used to vaccinate the public. Interestingly, the sugar cube is being discussed as a faster and easier way to get the mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine done.

Hmmm, inoculate; with their permission and as a condition of “in-person” attendance, all the students, teachers, staff, volunteers and parents, grandparents, guardians, and caretakers at their “home” school, using a sugar cube as the vehicle to ingest the vaccine?

Too simple, too easy, too naïve or believe in science, adults first to test the efficacy, then good supervision, oversight and documentation. “Let’s get started!”


Warren Furutani has served on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, and in the California State Assembly. He is a senior advisor to Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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