By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
There’s been troubling news from friends and relatives in the Bay Area over in the US about the rising cases of hate crimes against not just Chinese but Asian Americans in general since the outbreak of the pandemic. The numbers are shocking – 2,808 accounts of anti-Asian hate recorded from March to December of 2020 across 47 states plus the capital. Statistics laid out by the New York City Police Department reflect a 1,900-percent increase in hate crimes against Asians.
Sadly, the ignorance of a few about the coronavirus disease has bred contempt for Asians. Sociologists noting references to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan plague”, “Chinese virus”, or even “Kung-Flu” indicated a racial scapegoating of not just Chinese but Asians and Pacific Islanders amid the widespread transmission of the disease in the US. While campaigning for reelection, even former US President Donald Trump used these terms as a political gambit to a certain degree.
Politicizing the health crisis, which has already caused disruption in many painful ways for everyone, only helps the cause of hate and blame. Filipinos, known as citizens of the world by virtue of being exported as skilled workers and professionals from here to Timbuktu, make up 4.1 million of America’s population. And like their other Asian counterparts, Filipinos are part of the very fiber of multi-racial American society who live by the sweat of their brow in peace for the glory of the Land of the Free.
Just two weeks ago, as rockets hit the airport within the US military-led coalition camp in Kurdish-run Erbil City in Iraq, a Filipino firefighter was killed – the lone fatality among five American contractors and a US serviceman injured in the terrorist attack. Earlier this month in the US East Coast, a Filipino man was slashed across the face with a box cutter while riding the New York City subway.
Around the same time in San Francisco, California, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant was killed after being violently shoved to the ground by a 19-year-old suspect as captured on security video. Last month, another African-American man was charged with assault on three elderly Asians in Oakland, California. And to think that just a year ago, “Black Lives Matter” protests in honor of George Floyd (the African-American man pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee to his neck till he died in Minneapolis, Minnesota) drew enthusiastic support from Asian-American communities.
Now, a movement that has spread online is “Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Hate”, which collects reports of verbal and physical attacks on Asian Americans. It said 70.9 percent of incidents recorded were verbal harassment while shunning or avoidance comprised 21.4 percent. Physical assaults made up 8.7 percent of the incidents while coughing or spitting comprised 6.4 percent.
These figures have alarmed the Philippine embassy in Washington, D.C., which issued last week a caution that read: “Filipinos are advised to exercise utmost caution in view of these incidents. Those who experience attacks are advised to immediately call 911 to report incidents.”
COVID-19 has spared no nation or race from its deadly and depressing scourge. It’s a frightening disease, but the last thing it should do to modern-day America is to create monsters out of citizens who turn against one another because of skin color or ethnic background. That’s just sick!
* * *