Asians & Pacific Islanders: ‘I am not a virus.’
The following message is from the NEA Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus.
As people and governments around the world struggle to face the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, members of the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community face a sharp rise in racist attacks incited by the hostile, divisive rhetoric of the president of the United States and his base. These hate crimes are not isolated events; 650 racist attacks were reported last week alone. The API community is being targeted at an unprecedented rate.
According to ABC News, “The FBI assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus … endangering Asian American communities.” There are incidents being reported across the country from Los Angeles to New York. In Texas, 19-year-old Jose Gomez was charged after police say he stabbed four people including a Burmese man and his children, ages 2 and 6, because “he thought they were Chinese and infecting people with coronavirus,” according to an arrest affidavit.
We know this behavior is not new. It is rooted in the historical racism that built this country, starting with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first law implemented in U.S. history to prevent all members of a specific national group or ethnicity from immigrating. It is the latest adaptation of “yellow peril” that scapegoats API people and targets us as the enemy within, casting us forever as the perpetual foreigner.
That doesn’t make this recent spread of racism any more understandable or palatable. These events have many of us angry, hurt, and afraid—for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our community. Ultimately, we need to figure out how this will be remembered, how we took a stand, and how we rebuild our larger communities.
What can we do? How do we stand together and take back the narrative when many people worry about speaking out and becoming further ostracized within their communities?
The NEA APIC officers would like to challenge you to the following actions:
Get informed. Learn the facts behind COVID-19 so you can help spread the correct information.
- National Science Foundation
- World Health Organization
- International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses
If you see racism, don’t be afraid to call it out. Here are some links that might help.
- Teaching Tolerance. (2020, March 20). How to respond to coronavirus racism.
- Nicole Jacobs, Ph.D. (2020, March 31). How can I confront coronavirus racism? Nevada Today.
- Joel Mathis. (2019, July 18). Calling out racism isn’t political. It’s our moral imperative. The Week.
Create a sign (or use one of ours), take a selfie, post it on social media. Change your profile picture to this selfie so we can create a collective force that says, “We are part of the API community. We stand with the API community. We will not tolerate racism in our community.” #StopAPIHate #AntiAsianRacism #PeopleAreNOTViruses
Send your selfie to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to collect all the photos to create a video to share with everyone.
Encourage others in your social networks to take this challenge. The more people who participate, the more opportunities for honest conversations, the more solidarity we can create, and the more hope we build.
Because we all need a little hope right now, right?
NEA APIC officers: Charmaine Banther, chair; Jodi Kunimitsu, vice chair; Terry Addison, treasurer; Lindsay Peifer, secretary.
- Robin Terry Brown. (2020, March 23). Educators Take a Stand Against Coronavirus Racism. NEA Today.
- NEA EdJustice. (2020, March 30). Standing Up to Hate and Bias Related to COVID-19.