One Lakewood Progress: We Must Stand Against Xenophobia During Coronavirus

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is new to the world, but the knee-jerk paranoia and misinformation fueling fear, racism, and hate targeting Asian and Pacific Islanders in the wake of the outbreak is not. Like Islamophobia that swept the country after September 11th, an exaggerated fear and hostility toward Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities is being perpetuated by negative stereotypes rooted in bigotry and historical bias and is in danger of leading to the marginalization of Asian communities in civic, business, social, and political life. 

Medically, viruses and bacteria (including COVID-19) do not discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or immigration status. But the language and actions of people fueling misinformation and fear absolutely do. Over the past month, hate groups and public officials, some at high levels of government, have used racist language to deflect, scapegoat and ascribe blame rooted in bigotry to Asian communities for the spread of Coronavirus. 

This rhetoric has emboldened an increase of hate crimes, assaults, abuse and harassment of the AAPI community across the nation. It was deeply troubling for me, also a person of color, to learn that some Asian owned businesses right here in Lakewood have been on the receiving end of racially-charged verbal abuse in response to this pandemic. What we know by looking to history is that if left unaddressed, hate, like any virus, will continue to spread and will leave vulnerable communities open to dire consequences. 

The spirit of Lakewood is rooted in boundless opportunity for all communities, no matter their race or ethnicity; no matter where they come from. I join in solidarity with the AAPI community and vehemently denounce these xenophobic attacks and call on all local and state lawmakers and public officials to do the same in a public forum. Asian Americans, as well as all communities of color, should be able to participate in this community as equals, without the fear of being bullied, harassed or assaulted.

In this time of uncertainty and fear in our country, we must ensure that we lead in fighting misinformation with truth, mitigating hysteria with common sense, and protecting vulnerable communities by raising our voices to publicly denounce hate.  

Asian communities, like all of us, are experiencing the same uncertainty, the same worry, and are grieving the loss of loved ones to the Coronavirus. They are also working tirelessly on the front lines to combat the virus in ER’s, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and are supporting our community through other essential occupations. 

We must not let panic leave us open and impressionable to mistruths and misinformation about the virus that negate the core of who we are as Americans and as Lakewoodites. We must continue to define ourselves through moral acts of courage by standing up for the human rights of others and rejecting the rhetoric of racially divisive oppression.

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Volume 16, Issue 9, Posted 3:45 PM, 04.15.2020