Community leaders share concern that Biden Administration’s release of report on origins of COVID-19 will lead to increases in hate incidents against AAPI community
August 19, 2021 — The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and Stop AAPI Hate, along with 21 national AAPI organizations, sent a letter to President Biden urging him to redouble efforts to protect the AAPI community in anticipation of the release of the report on the origins of COVID-19, which advocates fear will be used to legitimize racist language and scapegoating of those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. This comes shortly after the release of Stop AAPI Hate’s latest report, in which the coalition noted that it received as many reports of hate incidents in the first 6 months of 2021 as it did in the final 9 months of 2020.
Signatories note that the findings of the Biden Administration’s 90-day investigation into the origins of COVID-19 will put Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at risk, no matter its resolution. Most scientists agree that the while COVID-19’s initial transmission via natural origins is a more likely explanation, the hypothesis that the virus originated from Chinese laboratory experiments has sparked a flurry of conspiracy theories. Politicians and pundits have used these conspiracies to scapegoat Asian Americans as somehow to blame for the pandemic.
“During this pandemic, the Biden Administration has demonstrated leadership in the face of crisis, and has been resolute in their calls to end anti-AAPI racism. In the coming weeks, with the impending COVID-19 origins report, our community will need such leadership once again. In truth, regardless of what the findings are, those who have actively chosen to meet adversity with hate, will do so again. We support emerging from this crisis better prepared for the next; however, it should not come at the expense of our community’s safety,” said NCAPA National Director Gregg Orton.
“It is critical that the Biden Administration understands that language matters. They need to use precise language in public statements about the investigation and the pandemic more broadly. When speaking of the actions of the Chinese government, for example, it’s necessary to specifically state that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not at fault for the pandemic,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council.
“During the pandemic, language about the Chinese government and COVID-19’s origins has inspired hate, racism, and discrimination towards our AAPI community in the United States,“ said Russell Jeung, Ph.D., co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. “We understand the legitimate interest in identifying the source of COVID-19 for the purpose of preventing future outbreaks. However, our data shows that harsh language against China brings hate towards AAPIs. Of 9,081 hate incident reports in our latest report, 48.1% included at least one hateful anti-China and/or anti-immigrant statement or phrase.”
While naming the Biden Administration’s legitimate interest in identifying the source of COVID-19 to prevent future outbreaks, the letter suggests ways in which the federal government can further protect Asian American and Pacific Islanders, including the following policy actions:
- Invest in civil rights and human rights initiatives at the state and local levels. This includes directing federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services, to identify and make accessible funding opportunities, such as grants, to support state, local, and community initiatives.
- Increase federal funding for, and coordination with, community partners to deliver in-language, culturally competent mental health services. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with community groups serving AAPIs to develop an outreach and education strategy for delivering mental health services, as called for in H.R. 3373, that provides for language access at all points of the patient’s experience. The federal government should provide funding to implement this strategy, as well as increase funding to community-based providers and federally-qualified health centers that deliver the bulk of these services in our communities.
- Prioritize language justice across the federal government. The Administration should update and fully enforce Executive Order 13166 (2000), which provides important protections for LEP AAPIs, and address language access barriers in implementing Executive Order 13985 (2021), to advance racial equity.
- Pause the Department of Justice’s China Initiative. While the Initiative ostensibly aims to investigate and prosecute economic espionage and the theft of trade secrets, it subjects Chinese American scientists and others to racial profiling, surveillance, and wrongful prosecutions, where no evidence of such espionage or trade secret theft exists.
“The United States’ relationship with China has long influenced how Chinese Americans, as well as others of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, are treated throughout the nation,” said Cynthia Choi, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “Regardless of the need to hold China accountable, when the U.S. attacks China with words and policy, it puts our community in harm’s way — and our data shows it. We implore the Biden administration to make good on his commitment to do everything within his power to protect the AAPIs, who now make up 24 million of the U.S. population.”
The Stop AAPI Hate coalition encourages any member of the AAPI community who has experienced hate during the pandemic to report the incident at: https://stopaapihate.org/reportincident/.
Stop AAPI Hate is a national coalition addressing anti-AAPI racism across the U.S. The coalition was founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department. Between March 19, 2020 and June 30, 2021, Stop AAPI Hate has received 9,081 reported incidents of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the U.S. Visit stopaapihate.org.