2020 was arguably the most difficult year we have experienced in our lifetime. We needed to adjust to the new normal: lockdowns, masks, not being able to see our loved ones. Millions infected with the corona virus and almost 50 thousand of them lost their lives to it. Millions losing their jobs in a terrible economy. Not to mention the BLM, one of the largest movements in history and a presidential campaign.
We entered 2021 optimistic. However, four months into a new year and presidency we are still battling Corona virus and extreme racism and injustice. With Donald Trump out of office, we are still reaping the repercussions of his administrations remarks, which is costing Asian Americans their safety and lives.
In March of 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic, Donald Trump addressed the nation about the growing number of cases and the widespread fear of the virus. After months of referring to the virus with the proper name, “Corona virus”, his rhetoric had switched. In Trumps notes, in thick black marker he crossed out the word “corona” and replaced it with “Chinese”. Trumps use of the word “Chinese” was a deliberate attack and attempt to place blame on an already marginalized community. After this remark, media outlets were quick to headline their stories with the phrases, “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese Corona virus”.
Reporters, scientists and even the FBI warned the public about the likely surge of violence against Asian Americans. The Asian American community faced a rise in hate crimes almost immediately. Late last year, the UN issued a report of the alarming increase of hate crimes against the Asian American community. It’s difficult to tell exactly how many incidences or reports there have been, since there is no governmental or organizational agencies keeping track. The advocacy group stop AAPI hate last year estimated 2,800 nationwide hate incidents. This year, reports are rising exponentially, and in an effort to gain awareness people have took to social media to post videos and their stories. The hashtag, #StopAAPIhate was founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department, San Francisco University. This hashtag has created a movement on social media platforms to bring awareness, educate others and provide resources to victims and allies. People have posted videos of incidents under this hashtag from either their IPhone or from security cameras, which are being used as evidence in cases to properly prosecute the attackers. The use of social media has been an overwhelming success, it has allowed the public to report incidents and proof, holding people accountable. However, these pictures and videos that are flooding social media expose the painful truth of a racist and violent America.
This social media movement has drawn attention and sparked a much needed conversation on race and anti-Asian violence in a post-pandemic world, but more importantly it should make us ask ourselves: Should the President be allowed to exercise their freedom of speech when it comes to race? Former President Trumps decision to call the virus the “Chinese virus” was xenophobic and incited violence against the community, he and his administration defended this label again and again. His racist remarks essentially made it okay to have an anti-Asian bias, and created coronavirus discrimination. Because of him, media outlets picked up on the term and it spread like wildfire, soon after millions of Trump supporters jumped on the bandwagon. If Trump didn’t use the terms “Wuhan Virus” and “Chinese Virus” the Asian American community wouldn’t be suffering such devastating losses, and this racist rhetoric wouldn’t change peoples perceptions of Asian Americans. Not only should we condemn xenophobic comments in relation to the Corona Virus, but all racist statements made by political figures in the media. Going forward, the President and other political figures shouldn’t be allowed to rope in their ideas with fact, there should be a thorough look over any speeches and statements made by the President. There should be a bill that prevents the President from using racist terminology and defamatory speech to ensure that this wont happen again.
Asian American discrimination and violence has always been apart of American history, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to South Asians beings detained and deported after 9/11 we have used them as a scapegoat during times of war and trouble. Donald Trump placing blame on Asian Americans during the pandemic is no exception. We have come so far these past few years to try and educate ourselves and make changes to end racism in all forms, and unfortunately Donald Trumps remarks takes us several steps back. Someone like the President, with massive influence over Americans shouldn’t have the ability to speak their opinion when addressing the nation, their words can be detrimental and cost thousands of innocent lives.