Discussion: The rise of racism against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus crisis

The World
Updated on
A person is shown in shadow and holding a placard with "#I am not a virus" printed on it.

The US Senate passed a bill last week that would help combat the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in a bipartisan denunciation of such violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure would expedite the review of hate crimes at the Justice Department and provide support for local law enforcement in response to thousands of reported violent incidents in the past year.

Police have seen a noted uptick in such crimes, including the February death of an 84-year-old man who was pushed to the ground near his home in San Francisco, a young family that was injured in a Texas grocery store attack last year and the killing of six Asian women in shootings last month in Atlanta.

Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, the legislation’s lead sponsor, said the measure is incredibly important to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, “who have often felt very invisible in our country, always seen as foreign, always seen as the other.” She said the message of the legislation is as important as its content and substance.

Related: Chinese students in the US grapple with the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

This national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes — including the recent mass shooting in Atlanta — is prompting a national conversation. From physical assault to harassment to discrimination, Asian Americans have experienced a harrowing array of violence in the US, made more acute amid the coronavirus crisis.

Related discussion: Grieving and mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic

As part of The World’s series of conversations with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, reporter Elana Gordon moderated a panel discussion examining the past year, where longstanding racism has intersected with the coronavirus pandemic, making Asian Americans even more vulnerable to attacks.

This conversation is presented with The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Juliet Choi
President and chief executive officer, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Russell Jeung
Professor, Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University and co-founder, and co-founder, Stop AAPI Hate

Howard Koh
Harvey V. Fineberg professor of the practice of public health leadership at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School, as well as faculty chair of the Initiative on Health and Homelessness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Paul Watanabe
Director of the Institute for Asian American Studies and professor of political science, College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts, Boston

The AP contributed to this post.

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