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Andrew Yang’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post has triggered reactions from many Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) on social media. Most of the responses are negative. Most members of the APIA community resent having to prove loyalty as a way to stop racist attacks. Particularly for the APIA community, this is a very sensitive issue.

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There are two fundamental components at play here:

  • This call to action by Yang requires action by the discriminated while taking away focus from the perpetrators of racists acts against APIA. Under no circumstances should the APIA community be responsible for the virus, nor have to be part of the cure any more than any member of this society. This kind of thinking legitimizes the racism against the APIA community by creating an artificial standard for a group of people to prove somehow that they are as loyal or patriotic as any other.
  • Discrimination against the APIA community has little or no consequences for the person who commits these and other acts. The media must take some responsibility for this.

Being part of the cure” is not the responsibility of the APIA community. It is a global responsibility and for the most part, global citizens are cooperating and working together towards getting this pandemic under control.

The media made a conscious decision to stop using racial slurs against African Americans in their news coverage. If someone used that word against an African American, they referred to the slur as the “N” word. This did so much to challenge racism. It became instantly clear that using this word makes you a racist. While there were some pushback from people saying the media was just be politically correct, eventually people understood and the use of that word became a racist act.

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The media seems to have little or no trouble using slurs used against Asian Pacific Islander Americans. There are too many such occasions that I will not list them here. But today, when there are known acts of racism and violence perpetrated against the APIA community, news organizations continue to use terms like “tsunami” when describing the speed in which this virus is spreading. Most of those who would commit racist acts may or may not know that tsunami is a Japanese word that westerners have decided to use to describe tidal waves but the media uses this term freely. News organizations must decide to refrain from using these words when they can substitute it with English words that won’t connect this virus with any Asia in any way.

Mr Yang’s call to action brings up very painful memories that are part of our history. During the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry, the US government required a loyalty oath while being held in prison camps throughout the United States under Executive Order 9066. “Being part of the cure” is not the responsibility of the APIA community. It is a global responsibility and for the most part, global citizens are cooperating and working together towards getting this pandemic under control.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

The president decided that it was appropriate to call Covid-19 the Chinese Virus. He doubled down when challenged by a journalist. By insisting on blaming this virus on China and then further implicating the Chinese government for actions or inactions for the spread of the virus, the president was only trying to shift the blame for his actions and inactions. This was not the first time our president blamed immigrant or ethnic minorities. The president blamed Mexican immigrants for a variety of social ills with no factual data to support his position while marginalizing a group of people who are indigenous to this continent, stripping the legitimacy of Latinos and Mexican Americans who have been on this land long before White people came to this continent.

If we are to move forward as a country, we must embrace the notion that no one group must be singled out in this country for anything that they did not directly cause, create or execute. No American is more American than any other with the exception of people who are of indigenous origin including Latinos, Tribal Natives and others who were here before all others. As for the rest, we are all just Americans. We do not have to do any more or any less to be able to claim the title of American. While Mr Yang’s motives may have been good and his desire to stop the racist acts against our community may be genuine, for a great many of us, his comments clearly misses the mark. His op-ed just gave legitimacy to all those who believe that people who look like me are not actually American no matter what.

The expectation to be safe, to be able to pursue life, liberty and happiness is not predicated on any extraordinary act of patriotism or loyalty as Mr Yang suggests. It is our inalienable right and it unites us all as Americans.

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Taro O'Sullivan