The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) condemns the persistent use of the phrase “Chinese virus” by the president, elected officials, and media outlets to describe Covid-19 and the coronavirus. When President Trump cites the “Chinese virus” as the source of the current health and economic crisis, he encourages harassment and violence against Asian Americans across the nation. His actions, echoed by other politicians and commentators, have led to verbal assaults, spitting, and physical violence directed at Americans who had nothing to do with creating or spreading the Covid-19 virus.
Unfortunately, this recent spike in anti-Asian violence is a grim reminder that falsely blaming Asian immigrants for economic and health crises has been a part of American history since the 1800s. Anti-Chinese violence, including murders, arson, and expulsions, occurred in Los Angeles (1871), San Francisco (1877), Idaho (1879), Colorado (1880), Wyoming (1885), Washington state (1885-86), Oregon (1887), Nevada (1903), and beyond. Filipino Americans faced racist attacks and mob violence in the 1920s and 30s. Sikhs and other Indian Americans faced riots and were expelled from Bellingham, Washington in 1907. Japanese Americans faced blame and mistreatment before World War II, and then were incarcerated behind barbed wire because of what a government commission later determined was “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
For 46 years, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has worked with Asian American communities, government officials, the legal community, and others to move our nation away from scapegoating and violence toward the “more perfect union” envisioned by America’s founders. Using legal tools, public education, and community-building expertise, AALDEF has fought against anti-Asian violence since the racially-motivated murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 in Detroit. AALDEF has advocated for government collection of hate crime statistics, represented South Asian and Muslim victims of hate violence and discrimination after 9/11, and filed complaints on behalf of Asian immigrant students at South Philadelphia High School who were targets of racial harassment and violence.
“Today, in the wake of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, AALDEF stands ready to help Asian Americans facing harassment, hate violence and discrimination,” said AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung. “We welcome the actions of elected officials and all Americans who have supported the Asian American community by speaking out to stem the tide of misdirected anger that Covid-19 has engendered.”
Fung urged individuals and community groups to contact AALDEF at firstname.lastname@example.org to report and seek legal assistance in connection with anti-Asian harassment, violence, and discrimination related to the Covid-19 pandemic.