COVID-19: Solidarity with Our API Communities

As COVID-19 dominates our lives, some misguided Americans have taken it upon themselves to harass and assault people appearing to be of Asian descent. 

The anti-Asian racism related to COVID-19 is one of many ways People of Color and poor Americans are disproportionately suffering during this public health emergency.  CFA urges members to support Asian and Pacific Islander communities and dispel anti-Asian stereotypes. 

“As a labor union that has taken on anti-racism and social justice as part of our charge, we must act quickly and model how social justice unionism means standing up for all of our impacted communities,” said Lisa Kawamura, co-chair of CFA’s Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Communication Studies Lecturer.

“We must not fall for rhetoric and explanations that serve to further divide and conquer our respective communities.  Instead, we can see parallels to how all of our communities are being impacted – not only by this pandemic, but by the existing racial, economic, and political inequities in our society and all of our institutions,” Kawamura added.

Unfortunately, many opportunistic politicians, including President Donald Trump, continue to disingenuously refer to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”  The use of this inaccurate language contributes to racist verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans, and anyone who may look Asian American.

Russell Jeung, CFA member and Asian American Studies Professor at San Francisco State, is part of a group tracking the discrimination and assaults against Asian-Pacific Islanders in California.

Jeung helped set up a website in eight Asian languages to gather firsthand accounts.  CFA members are encouraged to complete the form if they are a victim or witness to such behavior. Information gathered will be used for assistance, advocacy and education. 

Some of the incidents victims reported to the Stop AAPI Hate website include being spit on, having bottles thrown at them, and strangers invading personal space to cough and breathe on victims. A Chinese American child overhearing her second-grade friends say “all Asians have the coronavirus.” 

“CFA and Labor need to condemn racist attacks on the API community because the growing anti-Asian hate is widespread and dangerous,” Jeung said. “We’ve received over 1,200 reports of coronavirus discrimination in just the first two weeks of our Stop AAPI Hate website, and 10 to 15 percent involve physical assaults.”

Even before the reporting center went live, Jeung’s research found a 50 percent rise in the number of news articles related to the coronavirus and anti-Asian discrimination between February 9 and March 7.

“We’re finding that these incidents from across the nation are harrowing and concerning. API women are reporting incidents two to three more times than men, so the coronavirus is being used as an excuse for harassment. Children and youth are often involved, so we need to step up anti-bullying efforts and offer mental health resources for resilience.”

Before shelter-in-place orders, most harassment was taking place at school or on public transit.  Now, most interaction occurs in stores, so Jeung is calling on business owners to enact strong policies against bullying and harassment to ensure all shoppers have safe access to goods and services.