Coronavirus Fears Lead to Increases in Anti-Asian Attacks and Discrimination & Three Things You Can Do | Not in Our Town

Coronavirus Fears Lead to Increases in Anti-Asian Attacks and Discrimination & Three Things You Can Do

As the coronavirus spreads so too have discrimination and racist attacks on Asian Americans. Earlier this month, the CDC posted a statement to their website about the problem of stigma in the face of a possible pandemic.

"Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support. We can communicate the facts that being Chinese or Asian American does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19."

They also note that people from China living in the United States may be worried about family members in China. "Facing stigma can make fear and anxiety worse. Social support during this outbreak can help them cope."

Three Key Ways to Stop Discrimination and Racial Attacks

The only way to defeat hate is to overwhelmingly reject it at every occurrence.

Share the Story: Alert your community if you are targeted or if you hear about an attack or a threat. Find or create a positive action supporting those who are targeted.

Spread Solidarity: Make a powerful force against discrimination and hate. As those who are targeted lead the way, diverse groups of people stand up together to show that an attack on one is an attack on all.

Show up for Support: Physically show up to be with people who have been targeted. Organize rallies, vigils, teach ins, community town halls, film screenings, dinners. Send cards, letters, artwork. But don’t stop there. We walk together, get to know each other and get through the hard work of dealing with racism, bigotry, and the everyday ignorance and intolerance that keeps us separated. As we do this we are practicing and building an unstoppable force against hate.


NIOT has been gathering stories of how communities are experiencing and responding to anti-Asian discrimination because of the coronavirus.

NPR Code Switch: When Xenophobia Spreads Like A Virus

California: Hoaxes and Assaults in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Old Chinatown

In Los Angeles county, The Mercury News reports fake news flyers purporting to be from the World Health Organization are being posted warning residents to "avoid Asian-American businesses because of a coronavirus outbreak." An LA  middle schooler was also beaten and hospitalized after classmates said he was an Asian American with the coronavirus. Robin Toma of the L.A. County Human Relations Commission stated: "Many may be quick to assume that just because someone is Asian or from China that somehow they are more likely to be carriers of the virus. We need to speak out against this when we see it. We need to speak up, not be bystanders, be upstanders."

Utah: Shen Yun Dance Troupe

Screenshot of the Shen Yun website

The Shen Yun Dance Troupe is facing social media rumors associating its dancers with China and the coronavirus. The troupe's website features a disclaimer and press release explaining that the dance troupe is actually based in New York, not China, and is "in no way affected by the coronavirus situation." Rumors surrounding recent performances in Utah prompted the Salt Lake County Health Department to issue a statement that the rumors were false "reminding people that coronavirus risk is linked to recent travel to China, where the outbreak originated, and not to groups of people or particular ethnic groups."

California: Chinatowns Suffer Business Loss

San Francisco's China Town. Source: Wikicommons

Business owners in Chinatowns across the world all report major loss of foot traffic due to unfounded fears and rumors related to the virus. In San Francisco's Chinatown, for example, restaurant owners say that business has been off by 50 percent. In New York City's Chinatown, some business owners report that they have started laying off workers because of the lack of customers. In response to the stigma, local groups and elected officials in New York City have started a campaign called Show Some Love for Chinatown to attract support for local businesses. There have been no reported cases of the virus in the city. Earlier this month in Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney ate lunch at a dim sum restaurant in the city’s Chinatown district, saying: "Chinatown is safe. The city is safe. America is safe. Everybody should relax."

Indiana: Hotel Turns Away Asian Americans

Kao Lor and his uncle Lee Lor were traveling through the state of Indiana on their way to picking up a car they bought when they stopped to get a room at a Super 8 Motel in the northern Indiana city of Plymouth. After entering the lobby, an employee asked if they were Chinese. When they asked why, another employee responded, "Ever hear of the coronavirus?" and said that if the men were from China he needed to know. "When Lor asks why, the man said he has been told 'anyone from China has be picked up and quarantined for two weeks.' The employee tells Lor it is company policy." They decided to leave and then received the same treatment at a second hotel, but this time Kao filmed the exchange. His video of the exchange went viral. You can watch the video at CNN.

California: Asian Americans Facing Discrimination by Ride Services

Uber and Lyft drivers

CNBC reports that Uber and Lyft riders of Asian descent are experiencing discrimination from drivers. Lilian Wang tried to get into her Lyft ride at the San Francisco airport and the driver refused to open the door. It was only when her Caucasian coworker joined her that they were allowed to get in. Then the driver asked them where they were coming from. Wang told him they had been in Mexico. "OK, so not China?" the driver asked.

"Their driver then noted that he’s been told to be careful and has refused ride requests from people with Chinese-sounding names. He also asked Wang if she was in fact, a rider called “He,” and noted that he had already turned down that request."

Seattle: ‘People treat you differently in public now’



Italy: I Am Not a Virus

Meanwhile, activists like Massimiliano Martigli Jiang are taking to social media with videos like the one above that show him standing in public squares in Italy wearing a blindfold and a mask witth a sign that says, "I'm not a virus. I'm a human. Eradicate the prejudice." He received hugs from Italians in response to his activism. His video has been widely shared on Facebook, amid wave of social media campaigns such as Twitter hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus, French for #IAmNotAVirus.





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