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Coronavirus Fears Lead to Attacks on Asian-Americans Across U.S.

Foot traffic in American Chinatowns has dropped more than 50 percent since January over fears of contracting the coronavirus. (Adobe stock)
Foot traffic in American Chinatowns has dropped more than 50 percent since January over fears of contracting the coronavirus. (Adobe stock)
March 19, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Nationwide panic over the coronavirus has sparked a rise in racist incidents against Asian-Americans in the United States.

In a press conference Wednesday, President Donald Trump continued to call the infection "the Chinese virus" and argued it wasn't a racist term.

But Linda Jue, editor at large for the investigative news site 100 Reporters, says the president's choice of words fuels white nationalist thinking and discrimination against Asians.

"In spite of the fact that generally our country has gotten much more diverse, much more enlightened about race, there's still a large sector of this society that remains committed to the idea of racism," she states. "And he's feeding that mentality."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says race doesn't play a factor in contracting or spreading coronavirus. Yet Asian-Americans in New York, California, Maryland and other states have reported numerous incidents of bullying and harassment since the outbreak started.

Last week, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas also vowed to "punish" China for the virus.

Jue says this rhetoric, like Trump's, will only inflame more prejudice.

She says she recently was the target of a racist incident at a restaurant in Marin County, California, which shocked her. But she says the United States has a long record of discriminating against the Chinese.

"People tend to think that because we're Asian-Americans that we don't really have a history of the same kind of discrimination as black folks or Latinos," she states. "But in fact, we do have a history of that. It goes back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of the late 1800s."

The New York City Police Department has made two hate-crime arrests where victims were targeted with anti-Asian statements.

Fears about the coronavirus originating in China also have impacted cities with major Chinatowns. Foot traffic has dropped more than 50% since January in neighborhoods in New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD