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!