Leadership begins at home and we, as Americans, must demonstrate by example that discrimination and racism will not be tolerated. The coronavirus affects us all. Yet, in addition to the health hazards the virus brings, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have also had to confront an additional set of challenges during this pandemic: discrimination, bigotry, hatred, and racism due to their perceived association with the virus.
In the last several months alone, over 1,700 incidents
of anti-AAPI discrimination have been documented across America and the FBI has warned of surges in hate crimes towards the AAPI community during this time. Even as many members of the AAPI community serve as the physicians and health workers caring for patients and conducting vaccine research, many wrongly attribute the coronavirus to this diverse group of Americans. Our nation’s leadership, including the President, continues to fuel flames of hatred with repeated characterizations of the virus as the “Chinese virus”, “Kung-flu”, or the “Wuhan virus.” In so doing, they spread fear and weaponize rhetoric for political gain.
The AAPI community has served our nation’s military honorably since 1812. Then as now, AAPIs served our country despite having withstood multiple attacks on their culture and identity throughout its founding. AAPIs have endured years of setbacks, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese Americans, the Rescission Act, and more.
Today, our AAPI communities serve as America’s bridge to Indo-Pacific allies, partners, and competitors; our diverse heritage includes ties to 50 Asian and Pacific Island countries. Our specialized knowledge remains essential to the formulation of effective U.S. strategies in the region.
As AAPI leaders and allies working in national security, we know diversity is our strength and unity is our power. Diverse backgrounds and perspectives make the U.S. a more secure, prosperous, and influential country. AAPIs continue to serve even as some seek to denigrate this community and lay the destruction of the virus at their feet. We also recognize that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and we stand together in our pursuit of justice and equality.
We must work together to defend the contributions of this community, confront structural discrimination that perpetuates inequality and challenge the misguided behavior of our politicians.
As “social distancing” guidelines ease and our communities begin the hard work of rebuilding and reconnecting, we remain steadfast in our commitment to rejecting those who seek to racialize the virus. To do this, we denounce these acts of hatred and discrimination and urge others to do the same. We will continue to coordinate action nationwide to shape the debate, fight for policy changes, and support leaders who share our values that represent the contributions of all Americans.
Truman National Security Project