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Racism Against Asian Americans Spreads in Coronavirus Outbreak

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Monday, March 9, 2020   

SEATTLE -- The spread of the novel coronavirus has put Asian American communities on edge as racism ramps up across the country.

There are reports of physical attacks on Asian Americans in places such as New York City, although no incidents have been reported in Washington state.

But Naomi Ishisaka, a columnist for The Seattle Times, says misinformation is spreading and leading to these types of problems.

She adds that, over the past month, some Chinese restaurants in the Seattle area have seen a 40% drop in sales.

"It's just sort of sent a chill throughout the community, and people just being very wary of coughing in public while they're Asian -- I mean, just things that you shouldn't have to think about in 2020 in the United States," she states.

Ishisaka notes racism against Asian Americans has a long history in the U.S., including "yellow peril" scapegoating of the 19th century, which led to laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1889.

Ishisaka says the stigma surrounding Asian Americans and coronavirus is dangerous, too. A public health official in King County told her it's hurting efforts to control the disease because some folks are discouraged from coming forward.

"They don't want to be seen as unsafe to be around or somehow a bad person because they've got this disease," Ishisaka relates. "And so they don't come forward, they don't seek treatment and then, it makes it more possible for the disease to spread."

Ishisaka says she appreciates King County's campaign to quell the racist link between Asian Americans and coronavirus with signs that say "Viruses don't discriminate and neither should we."

Ishisaka says it's going to take more, similar efforts as this disease progresses.

"The most effective way to deal with it is to focus on the science, focus on the medicine," she stresses. "And we know that when we start focusing on those things, it's really community wide that we need to be spending our energies, and not focusing on one particular ethnic group or another."


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