Coronavirus Xenophobia: Asian-Americans attacked, spit on and blamed for outbreak

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Since the coronavirus pandemic started to appear, Asian-Americans have been experiencing and reporting attacks from people blaming them for the outbreak.

We spoke with Stewart Kwoh, the founder of Asian-Americans Advancing Justice, for his perspective on everything going on.

Can you tell us what you're hearing from the Asian-American community?

"Yes, we're very concerned about some people blaming Asian-Americans for the coronavirus. We've seen some beatings in schools, we've seen a lot of name-calling. My sister-in-law was called 'coronavirus' when she was just walking down the street...last week," Kwoh said. "We have seen a lot of harassment on people and some discriminatory practices, like people being kept out of line or told to leave their premises and in some cases, people have spit on Asian-Americans just because they're Asian-Americans."

How do you tell them to handle these hate incidents? Some of them mild and some of them more extreme.

"Well, we're concerned because historically, Asian-Americans when they're stigmatized, they could be stigmatized as being the cause of the depression, which led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, or they could be stigmatized as being disloyal, which led to Japanese Americans being rounded up," Kwoh said. "Or after 9/11/01, even though president said don't attack Muslim-Americans, Muslims and South Asians were attacked, like there were 500 hate incidents around the country."

Kwoh continued, "So, we're very concerned. We think there's constructive ways of dealing with it. I applaud the governor and the mayor and belatedly the president for speaking out against hate incidents against Asian-Americans, but it is really an outrageous situation where Asian-Americans are being targeted when actually they have nothing to do with it. The reality is that Asian-Americans, like every American, is doing all they can to stop the virus. Asian-Americans are the front lines of doing research. Asian-Americans are in the front lines of being doctors and nurses and other health professionals trying to stop this virus. And we think we need to learn from all countries and all people on how to stop this horrible virus."

We've seen throughout all this devastation around the world, we're also seen moments of great compassion. So, for everything that you're saying that is negative, have you also a moment to see people step up and supporting the Asian-American community?

"We have. Like I said, the governor and the mayor have spoken out forcefully against xenophobia. People on the street sometimes will say, 'Don't do that, they're in this with us together,' but I do think that we need to recognize Asian Americans really stepping forwards as other Americans are to stop the virus," Kwoh said. "As I said, researchers, front line doctors and nurses are all banding together because we are in all this together."
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