How Asian-American Leaders Are Grappling With Xenophobia Amid Coronavirus

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tags: racism, Donald Trump, coronavirus, Asian American History


The racist abuse on display has evoked painful memories. Asian-American leaders were quick to recall the government-sponsored discrimination baked into the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Japanese internment in the 1940s. Experts say those events and others contributed to the perpetual foreigner and “Yellow Peril” myths that promoted the false ideas that people with Asian features were disease carriers, a threat to the nation and could never truly become American.

In other words, said Janelle Wong, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, “You still are assumed to eat bat soup.”

For other leaders, it was the 1982 slaying of Vincent Chin — who was beaten to death in Detroit by two autoworkers in the midst of a recession — that came to mind.

And still others said the current situation contained strong echoes of the period after Sept. 11, 2001, when “anyone who was brown was equated with being a terrorist,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside.

“I was really fearful back in those days that they were going start rounding up Muslims the way they did with my grandparents and my parents,” said Mark Takano, a Japanese-American congressman from Riverside, Calif., whose father still has scars on his legs from internment. “We as Asian-Americans know that in times like these, mass blame and mass guilt gets assigned to a group of people.”

That the situation hits so close to home has made the messaging coming from Mr. Trump and some Republicans all the more frustrating to Democratic lawmakers like Mr. Takano, Ms. Chu and Ms. Meng, whose complaints have been backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


Read entire article at The New York Times

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