The novel coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented challenge, impacting every aspect of our lives and causing understandable anxiety and fear as we work to address this challenge. In response, Oregonians are working to protect each other by staying at home and other good health practices. At the same time, we're facing another grave threat: a rise in racism targeting our Chinese and other Asian community members. We must be just as diligent to protect each other and stop this hate.
As fears emerged around coronavirus, we quickly saw scapegoating of Chinese community members who were targeted with bias and discrimination. Jade District business owners have struggled since the initial news of the outbreak as stereotyping deterred customers from supporting these businesses.
This has escalated into serious hate attacks on the local, national, and international levels. We've heard stories of Asian community members hearing hate speech from their own neighbors when just going outside to get the mail. Around the country, physical attacks have occurred, and we know that this information is underreported. Much of this hate speech is occurring online and in social media, where hate messages spread like wildfire and cause widespread fear. Asian community members are fearful to even venture out for groceries.
'As community leaders from the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese communities, we know that we are better than this. Many folks have come forward to speak out against racism, but we need to come together now more than ever.'
This isn't occurring in isolation: President Trump's rhetoric has made racist language and behavior broadly acceptable. As soon as the broader geographic transmission of the virus emerged, this language ratcheted up, with the federal administration explicitly referring to this as the "Chinese virus."
This rise in unfounded fear and scapegoating echoes the anti-Asian sentiment experienced by Japanese Americans in World War II, who on the basis of their ethnicity alone had their homes stolen and their families incarcerated. These attacks emerge out of a long history of xenophobia shaping U.S. policy and narratives, leading to laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act. And, of course, we must reckon that this has all occurred within the context of racial discrimination that has profoundly harmed all communities of color.
When our leaders normalize this stigma today through racist rhetoric, racist policies move into the realm of the possible. This must stop now.
As community leaders from the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese communities, we know that we are better than this. Many folks have come forward to speak out against racism, but we need to come together now more than ever.
Community members do have resources. Portland United Against Hate, the Oregon State Department of Justice, and nonprofits are available to share these stories and offer resources. Locally, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon is available to talk with community members, too. And it's up to allies to intervene when they hear these statements, to challenge the narrative, and reach out to support their Asian friends, family, and neighbors.
These statements, narratives and actions, have real impacts, causing trauma and fear in our communities, and can discourage people from seeking care. The virus cannot turn neighbor against neighbor — we will only get through this together. We call upon everyone to show care and compassion to protect each other against what threatens to hurt us long after the outbreak passes.
Rosaline Hui is editor of the Portland Chinese Times. Khanh Pham is a Jade District resident and organizer running for House District 46. Amanda Shannahan is co-president of the Portland Japanese American Citizens League.
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