South East Asians and Chinese health-care workers face rising racial hostility when fighting Covid-19

The Chinese Friendship Gate is the focal point of Philadelphia's Chinatown. Asian Americans are worried about the rising numbers of racist incidents during the coronavirus pandemic. - Bloomberg

BEIJING/WASHINGTON: Across the United States, Asian health-care workers are facing a rise of racial hostility, which has left them in a painful position on the front lines of the response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent report of the Washington Post.

Some Covid-19 patients refuse to be treated by them, and when Asian American doctors and nurses leave the hospital, they face increasing harassment in their daily lives, too, said the report, noting Asian Americans represent 6 percent of the U.S. population but 18 percent of the country's physicians and 10 percent of its nurse practitioners.

Hengky Lim, a nurse practitioner from Indonesia, works on the coronavirus frontlines at two emergency rooms (ERs) in the Los Angeles area. Two patients have left the ER rather than receiving treatment from him, saying they didn't want to be treated by an Asian.

Gem Manalo, a Mass General anesthesiology resident who is of Chinese and Filipino descent, was the target of a racist tirade while riding the subway one night in Boston during the pandemic. A man kept yelling at her with the F word.

Audrey Sue Cruz, an internal-medicine doctor in California, joined more than a dozen other doctors in producing an #iamnotavirus video to help combat the wave of bigotry against Asians. She posted the video on Instagram. Then came the comments: "Bat eater."

Audrey Li, an internal-medicine resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said she was repeatedly told by a frustrated patient at another hospital to "go back to your country." She was born in New Jersey to Chinese immigrant parents.

"Part of the unsettling piece of racism is you're never sure if it's something you as an individual did or if it's something that's immutable and larger than yourself," Li was quoted as saying, "there was a sense of a little bit of guilt and shame for having forgotten what it was like to be marginalized in that way."

Some academic experts on race say President Donald Trump's rhetoric around the virus and China has contributed to the rise in racial harassment. For weeks, Trump deliberately referred to the coronavirus as the "Chinese virus" despite guidance from public health officials to avoid attaching locations or ethnicity to a disease. He has since tweeted that Asian Americans are not to be blamed for the spread of the virus.

Earlier this month, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro accused China of sending "hundreds of thousands of Chinese" to "seed" the coronavirus around the world. And Senator Ben Sasse drew criticism after he blamed the spread of the virus on "thugs in China" in a high school graduation speech.

"Words matter. People are making that close association between the virus and Chinese people because he insisted on using that term," said Russell Jeung, chairman of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University.

Jeung said a multilingual website set up by his department in partnership with civil rights groups to document anti-Asian harassment has recorded more than 1,800 reports since its March 19 launch. Victims said they were spat on, stabbed while shopping, shunned for wearing masks and barred from entering ride-hailing vehicles, according to the Washington Post report.

As the coronavirus spreads, so does online racism targeting Asians, new research shows.

The FBI has warned of a potential surge in hate crimes against Asians as the coronavirus death toll mounts and stay-at-home orders are lifted across the country, said the report. - Xinhua/Asian News Network
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