Russell Jeung knew trouble was ahead for the Asian American community when President Donald Trump labeled SARS-CoV-2 “The China Virus” in early 2020.
“It was deadly. It racialized the virus. It made a biological virus Chinese and stigmatized the people,” said Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and founder of Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks COVID-19-related discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. “It made Chinese people disease carriers.”
What followed was all too predictable. The rise of racism, harassment, and violent hate crimes against Asian American has became so pronounced that a new survey shows members of the group are more worried about the possibility of being a victim of pandemic-related racism than the virus itself, Jeung said at an online discussion on the topic on Friday by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
A report by Jeung’s group covering March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021, tallied 3,795 incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. While verbal harassment and name-calling was most often reported, at about 68 percent, physical assaults were 11 percent, civil rights violations — things like workplace discrimination, being refused a rideshare or denied entry to an establishment — made up about 8 percent of the incidents. Being coughed on or spat upon, Jeung said, became so common that the center started tracking it as its own category of discrimination, and made up about 7 percent of incidents.