Incidents of racist and xenophobic attacks against Asian Americans have surged as cases of COVID-19 escalate in the U.S., which became the new epicenter of the global outbreak last week.
As of this writing, the U.S. tops the rest of the world with more than 203,000 cases, followed by Italy (110,574), Spain (102,136), China (82,361) and Germany (76,544), according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
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Misinformation about #COVID-19 is spreading faster than the disease. Conspiracy theories, like that China created it in a lab, or untruths, like that Asians are more likely to carry or spread it, are dangerous and put #AsianAmericans at risk by stoking fears and inciting violence. We’ve already seen the impact across the country as Asians have been attacked or Chinese restaurants boycotted. That’s why today, we’re fighting back. First, I sent a letter to all Members of Congress urging them to only share confirmed and verifiable information. And in the Small Business Committee, I pressed the #SBA Administrator to take action to combat misinformation. #coronavirus
On Tuesday, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), told MSNBC that there had been at least 1,000 hate crimes against Asian Americans in the last five weeks. Alarmingly, such reports now come at an average of 100 per day — and “they are all over the country,” according to the congresswoman.
These figures corroborate the FBI’s recent warning of a rise in hate crimes. “The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations,” the agency said.
In late February, CAPAC urged fellow members of the Congress to help them “prevent hysteria, ignorant attacks, and racist assaults that have been fueled by misinformation” pertaining to COVID-19.
Two weeks later, more than 260 civil rights groups demanded the Congress to come up with “tangible steps to counter the hysteria,” claiming that the American people already “need to hear from leaders such as yourselves.”
— NCAPA #AAPI2020 (@NCAPAtweets) March 11, 2020
Such calls for action, however, are raised as some members of the Republican Party push rhetoric of using the word “Chinese” to describe the novel coronavirus. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Senator John Cornyn (Texas) and President Donald Trump have all been criticized for allegedly fueling the hate toward Asian Americans.
“These are very, very alarming and are not helped by President Trump who calls this the ‘Chinese virus,’” Rep. Chu told MSNBC. “Every responsible healthcare leader has spoken out and said that it should be called by its proper name: coronavirus or COVID-19.”
I’m noticing that it’s mostly white men who are so quick to tell us that “Chinese virus” isn’t a racist term. Maybe because they’re not on the receiving end of the violence and prejudice it incites.
— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) March 17, 2020
Rep. Chu cited cases such as Asian Americans assaulted in New York for wearing a face mask, the man attacked in San Francisco while collecting cans and the family of three — including a 6- and a 2-year-old — who were stabbed at Sam’s Club in Texas. She claimed that every time Trump uses the term “Chinese virus,” it only “fans the flames of xenophobia.”
However, Trump has since denied that the term is racist. While the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have explicitly stated that it is inappropriate, the president argued that there is “nothing not to agree on,” because the virus comes from China.
NextShark launched an incident report form for Asian Americans to log experiences of harassment, discrimination and violence against them.
Feature Image via Getty