California Needs a Racial Bias Strike Team Against Anti-Asian COVID-19 Racism

Asian Americans in California have self-reported 832 incidents of discrimination and harassment in the last three months, including 81 incidents of assault and 64 potential civil rights violations, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center and the leading aggregator of incidents against Asian Americans during the pandemic, founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) and San Francisco State University Asian American Studies Department.

As California Assemblymember David Chiu, Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s not just a pandemic of health — there’s a pandemic of hate.”

Discrimination and harassment of Asian Americans in California has drawn national attention recently after a series of videos in Torrance, California, featured a woman using graphic racist language against Asian Americans. The videos have received millions of views, and reflect just a handful of the incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate in California. The new report shows that incidents of racism and discrimination are not isolated to any particular area but are a statewide problem — Asian Americans have reported incidents in 34 counties so far. Incidents are reportedly taking place in California in retail stores, in the workplace, and online.

Anti-Asian American harassment has been further stoked by President Trump’s repeated use of the term “Kung Flu” in recent rallies and comments on Twitter scapegoating China for the United States’ devastating failure to control the coronavirus. 

I am appalled by these acts of hatred and by President Trump’s continued stoking of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian bigotry.

I first raised the issue of the COVID-19 outbreak and incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying of people thought to be Chinese at the Irvine City Council meeting on more than a month ago, on March 10.  I stated that we needed to do more to educate the public about how racism and xenophobia will hurt us in this crisis, and that we are all in this together.

I continue to be concerned, especially as reports increased of a surge in racially charged attacks unfairly directing blame for the pandemic on Asians and Asian Americans, while President Trump insists on using the phrase “Chinese virus” or “Kong Flu” when speaking of COVID-19.

In May, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” and urged governments to “act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.”

In response to these attacks, Stop AAPI Hate has now called on California Governor Gavin Newsom to establish a Racial Bias Strike Team comprised of key state agencies and departments that have jurisdiction over public education, implementing state and federal civil rights laws, overseeing workplace and employment discrimination, providing mental health services to vulnerable communities, and offering support to local Asian American-serving community-based organizations.

As Dr. Russell Jeung, Chair and Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, explains, “Without government accountability, we risk COVID-related racism against Asian Americans becoming deeply entrenched, ultimately impacting the lives of millions of people in California and around the country.”

I join with Stop AAPI Hate in calling on California Governor Gavin Newsom to establish a Racial Bias Strike Team against anti-Asian COVID-19 racism.

I further call on all my colleagues in elected office in Orange County, both Democratic and Republican, to join me in loudly and unequivocally condemning these acts of hatred, as well as President Trump’s continued stoking of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian hatred and bigotry by using the terms “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu” in reference to COVID-19.

No one, especially not the president, should use racial or racist terms in describing COVID-19.

Sadly, no Orange County Republican elected official has explicitly condemned Trump’s racist, anti-Asian “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu” language regarding COVID-19. Their cowardice and complicity leaves an indelible stain on their party and themselves.

All who have witnessed or experienced anti-Asian attacks are encouraged to file a report HERE.

Reports may be made in English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Japanese, Hmong, Tagalog, Khmer, Thai and Punjabi.

If you have experienced anti-Asian bullying, harassment, hate speech, or violence in Irvine, please also contact the Irvine Police Department at 949-724-7000.  In an emergency, call 911.  Neither the Irvine Police Department nor the Irvine City Council will tolerate any such anti-Asian attacks or discrimination in Irvine.

Please also let me know at melissafox@cityofirvine.org.

We’re in this together.  Don’t hate, stay safe, and wear a mask!

No One, Especially Not the President, Should Use Racial Terms in Describing COVID-19

Tonight the City Council will be voting on a Resolution proposed by Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Farrah Khan “in support of Irvine’s Asian American Community.”

The Resolution states that “In the weeks since the coronavirus spread to the United States, there has been a noted increase in bias incidents targeting Asians and Asian Americans.”  It notes that there have been at least two such incidents in Irvine.

But the Resolution makes no mention of President Trump’s repeated use of the term “Chinese virus” as a cause or incitement of these acts of hatred.

I first raised the issue of the COVID-19 outbreak and incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying of people thought to be Chinese at the Irvine City Council meeting on more than a month ago, on March 10.

I asked whether we needed to do more to educate the public about how racism and xenophobia will hurt us in this crisis, and that we are all in this together.

At the time, I was told that we had no reports of any such incidents in Irvine.

Nevertheless, I continued to be concerned, especially as reports increased of a surge in racially charged attacks unfairly directing blame for the pandemic on Asians and Asian Americans, while President Trump insisted on using the phrase “Chinese virus” when speaking of COVID-19.

As a public official in a city with a significant Asian American population, I was appalled by President Trump’s continued stoking of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian bigotry.

While the memo accompanying the Resolution states that “there is no common characteristic with the disease and human ancestry. It doesn’t have a race, nationality, or political ideology” and condemns the “acts of hatred” that have been directed toward Asians and Asian Americans as a result of falsely associating them with COVID-19, it does not even mention the racial language that President Trump has insisted on using to describe the virus.

I will gladly vote in favor of condemning bigotry and acts of hate against Asians and Asian Americans.

I would like it say that it is not acceptable for anyone —  especially not the President of the United States — to use the racial term “Chinese virus” when describing this deadly pandemic.

October is Filipino American History Month!

October is Filipino American History Month!

Did you know that:

• The earliest documented Filipino presence in the continental United States was on October 18, 1587, when the first “Luzones Indios” set foot in Morro Bay, CA, on board the manila-built galleon ship Nuestra Senora de Esperanza?

• The first permanent Filipino settlement in the continental United States was in 1763 in St. Malo, Louisiana? 

Filipino-American Civil War soldier Felix Cornelius Balderry, Company A, 11th Michigan Volunteers. Baldberry enlisted in the Union Army in 1863 at the age of 21 in Kalamazzo, Michigan. He fought in the battles of Chickamauga, Kenesaw Mountain, and the Siege of Atlanta, and returned to Michigan after the war.

• The Filipino American community is the second largest Asian American group in the United States, with a population of more than 3 million people?

• More than a million people of Filipino heritage live in California, by far the largest number in the United States (1 in 3 Filipino Americans live in California)?

• Filipino American servicemen and servicewomen have a longstanding history in the Armed Forces from the Civil War to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, including 25,000 Filipinos who fought under the United States flag during WWII?

• Andrew Jackson wrote about the “Manila Men” who fought with him in defense of New Orleans under the command of Jean Lafitte in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815?

• Nine Filipino American have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the United States Armed Forces?

• Filipino Americans have contributed greatly to the arts, music, dance, literature, business, journalism, education, science, healthcare. technology, government, politics, fashion, and other fields in the United States?

The Filipino American Community has a proud and distinguished history of making our state and nation stronger and better.  I’m delighted to celebrate Filipino American History Month with my Filipino friends and neighbors!

 

A ‘Photographic Act of Justice’ for Chinese Laborers at Golden Spike: Chinese Citizens, Asian-Americans Honor the 11,000 who Built the Railroad

Chinese-Americans at Golden-Spike, melissafoxblog.com, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox

by Kristen Moulton, The Salt Lake Tribune, reposted with permission.

In what an organizer called a “photographic act of justice,” some 200 Chinese Americans, Chinese citizens and other Asian American friends posed here Saturday on the 145th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

1869-Golden_Spike (1)

They were going for an iconic photo of their own, one to match the “champagne” photograph that has come to symbolize the celebration that day long ago when the Central Pacific from the West and Union Pacific from the East met on the windswept desert north of the Great Salt Lake.

The meeting of the rails on May 10, 1869, after nearly five deadly, costly years, linked together the industrial East and the resource-rich West for the first time. A journey that previously took six months by ox-drawn wagon was reduced to six days. The most famous photograph from that day shows hundreds of railroad employees, executives and other celebrators — but none of the more than 11,000 Chinese workers who laid track over the Sierra Nevada, across the desert and into Utah. The Chinese workers’ contribution, said New York City photographer Corky Lee, is “a neglected and forgotten,” piece of American history.

Saturday’s visit and photograph, he said, “is as an act of photographic justice.” The photographer worked with a Utah-based coalition, the Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Commemoration Project, to bring the group together on Saturday. He had the 200, including visitors from China’s Guandong Province, pose in front of the replica locomotives, as he did when a similar group came to the anniversary celebration in 2002.

The group also walked to Chinese Arch, a limestone span several miles from the Golden Spike National Historic Site’s visitor center.

railroad.chineseworkers.01Two of those participating Saturday, brother and sister Michael and Karen Kwan, in 2005 successfully petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the arch’s name from Chinaman’s Arch. Their great-great-great grandfather worked on the Transcontinental Railroad.

Margaret Yee, whose great-great grandfather was a chef for the Chinese work crews, said she felt the presence of the laborers as she and a New York dancer and actress, Wan Zhao, walked together along the rail.

“We came to pay them respect,” said Yee, a former head of Asian American affairs for two Utah governors. “One-hundred-forty-five years ago, nobody recognized them.”

Zhao, an immigrant from Mongolia, has been immersing herself in the history of the Chinese workers and immigrants, and performed a dance of prayer Saturday on the rails.

It’s a bit of sore spot for some in the Chinese American community that they had never been invited to help reenact the driving of the rails.

Norm Nelson, the president of the Golden Spike Association, said members of the Chinese community have long been involved in other parts of the celebration, including the act of laying a wreath on the rails to remember those who died working on the railroad.

But they have not been invited to re-enact the placement of the last spikes. “They weren’t part of that [original] ceremony,” Nelson, of Perry, said.

Lee, however, notes that women also were not part of the original ceremony, although some were present that day in 1869. He notes there are no women in the iconic champagne photo, although women and children in costume are always included in the re-enactment photos.

On Saturday, after Lee took photos of the Chinese American group, those in period costume were photographed.

And then the two groups and hundreds of other celebration attendees were photographed together.

Ze Min Xiao, the main organizer of Saturday’s visit to Golden Spike, said the coalition wants to steadily increase the number of Asians who participate each year.

It also wants more recognition from political leaders, to create a supplemental curriculum for Utah classrooms, and to archive the oral history stories of Asian Americans.

It’s interesting, she said, that the descendants of the Chinese laborers, who were forced to return to China by American law, later immigrated to the United States.

Karen Kwan, who teaches psychology at Salt Lake Community College and is running for the state House, said the railroad workers’ contributions deserve a more prominent place in Utah’s historical consciousness.

“Utah was built by a great diversity of people. We belong to Utah. Utah belongs to us.”