BEIJING – On the night of June 19, 1982, 27-year-old Chinese American Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two white auto workers in the U.S. city of Detroit at a time when local politicians, union leaders and auto executives blamed Japan for the decline of the U.S. auto industry, and Chin was mistaken as a Japanese.
Chin’s tragedy, along with many other similar bloody incidents in the United States, has highlighted a dangerous bond between racist rhetoric and hate-crime violence. Sadly, some Washington politicians have failed to learn a lesson from them and have in fact been feeding racism by spreading political viruses in the ferocious coronavirus pandemic.
In the face of a deadly virus, saving lives and containing the outbreak ought to be the top priorities. Yet the decision-makers in the White House have squandered their executive time on smearing China and fueling anti-Chinese sentiments with a carefully crafted political narrative.
Those Washington China-hardliners, most notably U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, have raced to use every possible chance to link the disease and the dire situation in the United States with China. In a recent ABC TV show, Navarro peddled his new conspiracy theory that China used air travels to “seed” the virus around the world.
Other senior U.S. politicians like U.S. Senator for Texas John Cornyn have also joined the China-bashing binge, seeking to pin the blame of the outbreak on what they claimed “a culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that” in China.
As a result of their racist propaganda, they have successfully “made America hate again,” and the hate-crime violence against Chinese and other Asian Americans has spiked across the United States. In California, a 16-year-old boy was beaten up in a high school and sent to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. In New York, a 39-year-old woman had acid thrown in her face outside her home. In Texas, a family of three, including children aged 2 and 6, were stabbed at a local Sam’s Club.
An Ipsos poll in April finds that over 30 percent of Americans have witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians. The STOP AAPI HATE reporting center, tasked to track coronavirus discrimination-related cases, has received 1,710 incident reports from Asian Americans across the country since mid-March.
As of now, the coronavirus has infected more than 1.6 million and killed nearly 100,000 in the United States. At a time when solidarity should be valued more than ever to bear down the pandemic, Washington’s disinformation campaign can only foment animosity, tear up social fabric, and further worsen the racial divide in the country.
In fact, such racist talk has already made America’s own pandemic fight more arduous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Asian Americans represent 6 percent of the U.S. population, but 18 percent of the country’s physicians and 10 percent of its nurse practitioners. Rampant racism has put these life savers in harm’s way as some are shunned by patients, while others are facing increasing verbal harassment or even physical assaults at work.
Because of rising racist sentiments, economic reopening in the United States has also become tougher. As Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in late January, Asian American-owned businesses have been playing a key role in the U.S. economy, employing 3.6 million Americans and contributing over 700 billion U.S. dollars annually to America’s gross domestic product. However, discrimination and hate have now started to lead people away from these businesses. That will give a body blow to the U.S. economy.
“We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, calling on political leaders “to show solidarity with all members of their societies and build and reinforce social cohesion.”
Those Washington politicians should heed this call, stay away from racism in the fight against humanity’s common enemy, and avoid creating more hate-crime victims like Vincent Chin. Making America hate will only make America suffer.