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COVID’s Back? How To Weather Another COVID Storm Without Being A Bigot

Written by Tonga Victoria Fakalata

It seemed that the days of shelter-in-place mandates and six-feet social distancing were behind us, however, with the new emerging variants EG.5 and BA.2.86, some schools and workplaces across the country are reinstating COVID policies. According to USA Today, three school districts in Kentucky and one in Texas have experienced week-long school closures in response to the rise in illnesses and student absenteeism, which fell to a staggering 83% of students missing school, in the first few weeks of the new year. Kentucky State Health Officials claim that the rise in illness is ‘not uncommon’ due to students returning to a large group environment, while the Runge Independent School District in south Texas has closed its schools after 20% of the staff tested positive for COVID.

Additionally, the US CDC has reported a 20% increase in hospitalizations due to COVID symptoms and sickness, which reiterates a dim truth; COVID is back and it’s going nowhere. As signs continue to point to a late summer COVID wave, scientists and news cycles remind us of the steps to take if COVID is detected, and how to protect ourselves from catching the new variants. What is of equal importance is to be reminded of the steps to take to not be a bigot, because unfortunately the social bigotry that was promulgated during the first wave of COVID is, in 2023, grossly unacceptable.

According to a 2020 Report, California residents reported over 800 counts of COVID related discrimination and harassment revealing a consistent pattern of anti-Asian hate speech. The breakdown of the Stop AAPI Hate report is as follows:

  •  81 incidents of physical assault against Asian Americans were reported in California during the past 13 weeks. 

  • 64 incidents suggest potential civil rights violations against Asian Americans in California, including instances where Asian Americans were discriminated at the workplace, barred from establishments, or prevented from using transportation.

  • Asian American women in California reported almost twice as many (1.7x) incidents of discrimination and harassment as men — 360 of the 583 incidents in which individuals identified their gender were reported by women.

  • 90 incidents of discrimination against elderly Asian Americans were reported (11.2% of all incidents).

Furthermore, 502 incidents out of 1,843 incident reports (27.2%) respondents reported that their assailants specifically mentioned the terms ‘China’ or ‘Chinese’ during the incidents of discrimination. During the onset of the global COVID pandemic, large news platforms such as FOX and CNN discussed anti-China rhetoric which increased hate speech and racial discrimination across the country.

The virulent animosity towards Asian Americans, and specifically Chinese Americans is a part of American history that hides among the shadows during a time of legal systemic racism.

Since the early 1800s, Chinese immigrants have played an integral role in building the American dream for immigrants, from China and the rest of the world, to participate and enjoy. However, the discriminatory practices and legal racism enacted by the federal and state governments created sordid conditions for Chinese immigrants and their posterity throughout American history, even to 2023. In every decade since the early 1800’s, Chinese Americans have endured the period of ‘Yellow Peril’, the ‘Anti-Chinese Leagues’, the Naturalization Act of 1870, the ‘Anti-Coolie Act’, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the ‘Chinese Must-Go Movement’, the 1921 Emergency Quota Act, the 2016 Campaign for American Presidency, and the 2019 COVID pandemic.

To understand the history of Chinese Americans and more broadly, Asian Americans, puts a mirror up to the fear-based behavior and ignorance that ran rampant during the global pandemic. In order to create a more perfect union, we must hold zero tolerance for racial bigotry. With another COVID-wave in the rearview mirror, there must be a higher standard for the American public to treat one another with respect and kindness, and not perpetuate the worst parts of our national history.

Sources: Stop AAPI Hate Report:

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COVID’s Back - How To Weather Another COVID Storm Without Being A Bigot
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