On March 9, Missouri state Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican from Branson, referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” in the House when talking about state revenues legislation.
Days later, a white man in Georgia shot and killed eight people, the majority of whom were women of Asian descent.
Anti-Asian American racism isn’t new to the U.S. From the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1800s to Japanese internment camps in the 1940s, the long history of racism in the U.S. has worked to harm Asian people and all people of color.
The U.S. is once again having to continue the conversations about racism that peaked last summer with the Black Lives Matter movement. Emphasis is now being put onto the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities after recent hate crimes against the groups were amplified by the shooting in Georgia.
This country touts equality and constantly says that racism is in the past, but that’s simply not true. Racism has never gone away in the U.S.; it’s only evolved over time.
Past and current racism toward Asian Americans has only gotten worse with the pandemic, as Stop AAPI Hate, a group working to fight against anti-Asian racism, reported 3,795 reported hate crimes in 2020. The group said that this number might not even cover all hate crimes that have occurred.
The rise in these hate crimes can be attributed, in part, to the racist rhetoric around COVID-19 and the fact that it originated in China. Asian American groups that condemned Seitz’s words said that the words are deliberate racist rhetoric at the expense of Asian Americans, and that it must stop.
Rep. Emily Weber from Kansas City, who was born in South Korea, said that the language is used to stigmatize and dehumanize Asian Americans.
I cannot tell you how many times since the start of the pandemic I have heard people call the virus the “China virus.” It isn’t just politicians that I’ve heard say it; it’s people in my own communities, people I know who have said it so casually.
I remember once when I confronted someone about it, they completely brushed me off, telling me it wasn’t racist at all.
The person I confronted was white.
White people have done very little to combat racism. I know I haven’t done enough to help, and I know there is no excuse for staying complicit. Because I know now that staying complicit will always benefit the perpetrator. I have decided to no longer stay silent.
I have learned that as allies, we need to uplift marginalized voices and continue to spread awareness, while also not speaking over their voices or giving our own perspective on their experiences.
White people need to continue to fight against and call out the racism that other white people express, and explain to people why phrases like “China virus” are racist and harmful to Asian Americans. We must actively want to change our racial biases, conscious and unconscious.
Stopping the use of offensive and racist language is barely scratching the surface of anti-Asian racism. But we need to start somewhere. Educating yourself about current and past racism is also a good starting point. Google is free. Use it.
What happened in Georgia is a hate crime, and what Seitz said was racist. White people cannot keep excusing and ignoring racism in this country. People of color have been saying that for a long time.
White people need to put in the effort to stop anti-Asian racism and all racism in this country. We have to be willing to admit our racism and call it out. We must listen to Asian Americans and stand in solidarity with them against racism.
Millions of Americans went to a ballot box in November 2020 and voted for a man that used blatantly racist names when referring to COVID-19. Calling out and holding those who say these things accountable isn’t all that we can do, but it’s a start.