Members of the City Council of Philadelphia released the following statement today in condemnation of racist and xenophobic rhetoric against Asian and Asian American communities amid the rise of COVID-19. We urge people to report harassment and hate crimes to either the police or to the Commission on Human Relations. We express our deep appreciation for the resilience, support and contributions of the City’s Asian American and Chinese American communities.
“Anti-Asian xenophobia has continuously emerged over the course of United States history. From the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act — the first immigration law to restrict an entire ethnic group — to the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, racist rhetoric and overtly discriminatory public health and immigration policies, rooted in racial anxieties and animosity, have consistently been weaponized against people of Asian descent particularly in times of crisis.
“This time is no different.
“For weeks, political figures, media institutions and influential members on social media have purposefully vilified China and, by extension, people of Asian descent in assigning blame for COVID-19 — an association that has revealed anti-Asian resentment and resulted in an uptick in racial hatred. President Trump and his administration have racialized the COVID-19 pandemic in order to deflect from his handling of a crisis he once deemed a ‘hoax.’
“On March 7, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the term ‘Chinese coronavirus’ in a televised interview, triggering multiple members of Congress to begin using the term. On March 16, 2020, when the United States was recording tens of thousands of cases of rapidly-spreading infection, President Trump used the term “Chinese virus” at a political rally. The next day, CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang reported that a White House official had “referred to Coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face.”
“The World Health Organization immediately rebuked these statements and made it clear that not only is such language inaccurate, it is directly linked to racial profiling and xenophobic behavior. Asian American communities, civil rights groups and anti-hate organizations have also denounced such language.
“Of even greater concern, cities around the country have reported increasing hate crime incidents against Asian Americans. Since March 18, 2020, the online reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate has received over 1,100 reports of incidents of racial harassment and discrimination directed at Asian individuals and businesses. Here in Philadelphia, Asian American and Chinese American communities, in particular, have filed complaints and voiced concerns about increasing harassment, threats and assaults rooted in anti-Asian racism.
“On March 26, 2020, Asian American and immigrant communities across Philadelphia held a virtual town hall with hundreds of participants who bravely shared stories of alienation, discrimination, and harassment faced in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. We stand with them in denouncing this language and in support of our Asian American communities.
“Asian Americans account for eight percent of Philadelphia’s population. The vibrancy of Philadelphia’s Asian community cannot be overstated. Asian businesses and enterprises are an economic engine for our City. Youth advocacy groups such as Asian Americans United and Vietlead have built a new generation of social activists that push the City of Philadelphia to be more equitable. Arts organizations such as Asian Arts Initiative have harnessed the power of art to push the City of Philadelphia to think creatively about diversity and culture. In short, our Asian American community has profoundly contributed to the prosperity of this City.
“Rising to this moment, businesses and a host of donors from the Chinese American community of Philadelphia have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in Personal Protective Equipment and charitable contributions for first responders and essential workers in the wake of this crisis.
“In these challenging times, each of us must unequivocally speak out against xenophobia and discrimination directed towards any targeted group. We as Philadelphians support our Asian, Asian American and immigrant communities. We stand by our Asian and Asian American neighbors, we appreciate and support our local businesses, and we will show the nation why we are the City of Brotherly of Love and Sisterly Affection.”