The League joined a letter led by OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates and 186 other organizations calling on President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, to publicly recognize and denounce the increasing racist attacks and discrimination against the Asian American community, in the wake of rising concerns over the Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19).
March 23, 2020
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Attorney General William Barr
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Director Christopher Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigations
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535
Dear President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and FBI Director Christopher Wray:
On behalf of OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, and the undersigned organizations, we urge you to publicly recognize and denounce the increasing racist attacks and discrimination against the Asian American community, in the wake of rising concerns over the Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19). While we understand that all levels of government are suffering from lack of resources during this serious pandemic, we cannot allow Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to become scapegoats.
Specifically, we call upon the President to issue an Executive Order to establish a Task Force for the purpose of investigating and protecting the civil rights of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). We urge the FBI to prioritize and expand data collection of hate crimes against AAPIs, with particular attention to ethnic and geographic disaggregation, to better inform our communities’ response to this pressing issue. We further ask the DOJ to reaffirm its commitment to AAPI survivors by making a public statement and prioritizing the investigation of anti-AAPI hate crimes. Finally, we ask the White House, Secretary of State, and other elected officials to cease using terms like “Chinese Virus”, “Wuhan Virus”, and “Kung Flu,” which falsely and harmfully associate COVID-19 with the Chinese ethnicity.
With increasing alarm, we have witnessed incidents across the country targeting AAPIs in connection to COVID-19. For example, on March 14th, a 47-year-old father and his 10-year-old son were followed and attacked in Queens, NY at a bus stop.1 The assailant struck the father on the head in front of his son. On the same day, an Asian American family fell victim to a knife attack while shopping at a Sam’s Club in Midland, TX.2 In the San Fernando Valley, CA, a 16-year old Asian American boy was physically assaulted at school because he was accused of having the coronavirus. And at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, two Chinese 3 international students were attacked with raw eggs thrown from a moving vehicle. We know 4 these incidents to be merely the tip of the iceberg, as hate crimes have long been severely under-reported and inadequately defined. As these racially-motivated attacks accelerate in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, it becomes increasingly imperative that this nation’s leadership ensures the safety of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
There is a stigma associated with COVID-19 (as it originated in Hubei Province, China) which leads some to assume that anybody with perceived Asian ancestry might carry the disease. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintain that ethnicity is not a risk factor for transmission of COVID-19 . For this reason, the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) discourage associating diseases with geographic locations, or “cultural, population, industry or occupational references.”5 Naming Asian ethnicities in reference to COVID-19 only strengthens this false association, and harms Asian American and Asian-perceived communities across the country. Perpetuating age-old stereotypes of Chinese people and culture being “dirty” and “diseased” directly enables further attacks on Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans.
Elected officials have been proactive in combating misinformation by reminding their constituents that it is safe to visit their local Chinatown,6 but recent attacks on AAPIs prove that more needs to be done.
On February 26th, the members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) circulated a letter to Members of Congress, urging them to help stop the spread of xenophobia and misinformation by only sharing verified information pertaining to COVID-19, how it spreads, and how Americans should protect themselves. We call on you to do the same; In the face of this growing threat, the American people need to hear from their leaders that Asian Americans are not to blame.
We therefore call upon the White House to issue a public statement condemning these increasing racist attacks, and to establish an investigative Task Force via Executive Order to protect the civil rights of AAPIs. This might draw inspiration from the largely successful AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force, established in 2014. The body conducted research and provided federal resources to AAPI victims of classroom bullying. This new Task Force should include offices of the FBI and DOJ to facilitate their collaboration on this urgent matter.
To the FBI and DOJ, we ask Director Wray and Attorney General Barr to make the investigation of anti-AAPI hate crimes a top priority, as AAPI communities are particularly vulnerable at present time. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, wrote to Director Wray in February asking the FBI to improve its hate crimes data collection.7 We echo those concerns. Options such as improved law enforcement officer training, improved quality assurance for data collection, and incentives for local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes to the FBI should all be explored. We request the collection and publication of comprehensive, quantitative data that is disaggregated by ethnicity and geographic location, and we urge the FBI and DOJ to allocate more resources to address this priority. These actions are necessary for the safety and peace of mind of AAPI communities nationwide. It is imperative that our nation comes together in these uncertain times. We need leadership that is grounded in truth, equity and compassion, and is committed to taking on racism and xenophobia directly. We urge you to call on elected and appointed officials in all levels of government to demonstrate their commitment to keeping ALL communities safe and healthy.
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates stands ready to do our part in fighting against racism, bigotry, and xenophobia.
(See full list of signatories in attached letter)
1 New York Post. (2020, March 14). Victim of possible coronavirus hate crime in Queens speaks out. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2020/03/14/victim-of-possible-coronavirus-hate-crime-in-queens-speaks-out/
2 News West 9. (2020, March 14). Teen charged in 'racially motivated' Sam's club stabbing. Retrieved from https://www.newswest9.com/article/news/stabbing-at-sams-club/513-da08cae7-b407-491a-9c24-dcec22ee5dd3
3 CBS News. (2020, February 14). Bullies attack Asian American teen at school, accusing him of having coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-bullies-attack-asian-teen-los-angeles-accusing-himof-having-coronavirus/
4 Cavalier Daily. (2020, March 12). Chinese international student reports attempted assault at U.Va. Retrieved from https://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2020/03/chinese-international-student-reports-attempted-assault-at-u-va
5 World Health Organization. (2015, May). World Health Organization Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/163636/WHO_HSE_FOS_15.1_eng.pdf;jsessionid=B646C7585BC8F003CBD121B8C513B0F7?sequence=1
6 Nancy Pelosi. (2020, February 24). Pelosi Remarks at Media Availability Following Visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown and Meetings with Local Business Owners. Retrieved from https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/22420