Pastor Ray Chang and Dr. Michelle Reyes have collaborated with leaders across the U.S. to combat the rising racism against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the umbrella of the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC), these leaders have released the “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of Covid-19.”
“We call for an immediate end to the xenophobic rhetoric, hate crimes, and violence against our people and communities,” write the authors. “We invite all Americans to join us in combating these contagions and work with us for the welfare of all.” The authors go on to say:
In the last two weeks of March 2020, Asian Americans have reported nearly 1,000 incidents of racism, and without mitigation, we expect that number to rise in the weeks ahead. Many of these were violent attacks against life and human dignity, and many more incidents have gone unreported.
The statement recalls previous incidents of racism against Asian Americans in the U.S. during World War II, as well as the racism Middle Eastern Americans experienced following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Noting the two greatest commandments to love God and neighbor, the authors write,
We urge you to speak without ambiguity against racism of every kind. Faithful Christian witness requires anti-racist work, and silence only perpetuates the sins not addressed. This includes going beyond shallow acknowledgement of the most obvious incidents of racism to taking responsibility in confronting the longstanding tendencies of people to discount and dismiss the realities of racism. It also includes addressing the disbelief and disobedience of your constituents who continue to ignore members of the body of Christ who are in pain and under threat.
What Asian American People Are Experiencing
The statement, which currently has over 6,500 signatures, came about because its drafters were noticing an increase in anti-Asian behavior and were experiencing that behavior themselves. Chang is the Ministry Associate for Discipleship at Wheaton College, and Reyes is a church planter and activist. According to Christianity Today, Chang said that when he went to Walmart a week into being quarantined, someone pointed at him and said, “There’s another one.” Reyes said that the son of one of the families in her church was chased by kids in his neighborhood who yelled “coronavirus” and “go home.”
These are among the more mild accounts of racism throughout the country, however. The New York Times reports that a man in San Francisco screamed at and spit on a woman named Yuanyuan Zhu. A San Jose woman was verbally assaulted while standing in line at Whole Foods when a man said to her, “I (expletive) hate Asian people…go somewhere else.”
A man riding the New York subway harassed an Asian American man near him, saying, “He’s standing right [expletive] next to me. I don’t want him under me.” The harasser told the other man to move and when he did not, the former sprayed Febreze all around him. The New York Times interviewed almost 24 Asian Americans a couple weeks ago who reported being harassed in public and fearful of letting their children go outside.
One of the more violent racist incidents took place at a Sam’s Club in Midland, Texas. On March 14, a man stabbed three members of an Asian American family, including a six-year-old and a two-year-old, and also stabbed a Sam’s Club employee who tried to intervene. The FBI has classified the incident as a hate crime. The man reportedly said he attacked the family because he “thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
President Trump has come under criticism for calling the coronavirus the “China virus,” terminology he has defended by saying the label is “accurate” since the virus originated in the city of Wuhan in China. Others, however, have pointed out that in light of the increasing hateful behavior toward Asian Americans, just because the term is true does not mean it is helpful.
Gregg Orton, the national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, told ABC News, “Maybe it is China’s fault or the [Chinese] government’s fault. There will be a time and place for that conversation. But right now we’re in the thick of this and we have to be mindful of the language we’re using.”
It is worth noting that these episodes are impacting more people than those of Chinese descent. Cynthia Choi helped launch the online hate crime reporting tool, Stop AAPI Hate. She confirmed to PBS News that 61 percent of the hate crimes being reported are from Asian American people who are not Chinese.