Last week, the U.S. intelligence community released a report, which had been ordered by President Joe Biden, on the origins of COVID-19. The report was inconclusive and the intelligence community remains divided over whether the virus came from a lab leak or the more likely scenario that it was transmitted from animals to humans naturally. However, the fact that this review took place has troubling consequences for the Asian American community.
Ahead of this report, the Stop AAPI Hate coalition (which CAA co-founded), The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), and 21 national AAPI organizations wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to redouble efforts to protect the AAPI community. The United States’ relationship with China has long influenced how other Americans have treated those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Throughout the pandemic, rhetoric about China’s role in COVID-19’s origins has fomented hate, racism, and violence towards our AAPI communities.
This intelligence review comes shortly after the release of Stop AAPI Hate’s latest national report, which revealed that more than 9,000 hate incidents have been reported to our coalition since March 2020. Of these incidents, nearly half included at least one hateful anti-China or anti-immigrant statement. Anti-Asian hate continues to be a problem as people come out of sheltering in place and interact more in public. Stop AAPI Hate received as many reports of hate incidents in the first six months of 2021 as it did in the final nine months of 2020.
“When the U.S. vilifies China with words and policy, our data shows it endangers the lives of the AAPI community,” said Cynthia Choi, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “To protect AAPIs living in the U.S., we must condemn the anti-China rhetoric and discriminatory policies that undermine our civil rights and ultimately our multiracial democracy.”
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also experiencing unprecedented and growing health inequity issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-AAPI hate, as Stop AAPI Hate’s report on mental health found. Those who have experienced racism face racial trauma and have heightened symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and physical symptoms.
The letter to the president also called upon his administration to do more to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through substantive policy change. Specifically, the groups asked the federal government to:
- Invest in civil rights and human rights initiatives at the state and local levels.
- Increase federal funding for, and coordination with, community partners to deliver in-language, culturally competent mental health services.
- Prioritize language justice across the federal government so that limited English proficient victims can access services provided by federal agencies.
- Pause the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which subjects Asian American and Asian immigrant scientists and others — particularly those of Chinese descent — to racial profiling, surveillance and wrongful prosecutions.