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The Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health co-hosted a virtual panel Friday to discuss strategies for approaching the rise in racism, violence, and discrimination against Asian Americans in the United States.
The radio program The World jointly hosted the event, titled “Racism Against Asian Americans: Combatting Hate and Discrimination.” The World global health reporter and producer Elana Gordon moderated the panel, which featured San Francisco State University professor Russell M. Jeung, University of Massachusetts Boston professor Paul Y. Watanabe, president and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum Juliet K. Choi, and HSPH professor Howard K. Koh.
Jeung, who also co-founded the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, accused former U.S. president Donald J. Trump for stoking violence and racism against Asian Americans by using the term “Chinese virus” to refer to the novel coronavirus.
“It was deadly, because it racialized the virus and made a biological virus Chinese, and then stigmatized the people so that Chinese were the disease carriers, and immediately again Asians were targeted,” Jeung said.
Still, Choi said a bill addressing anti-Asian hate crimes — which the Senate passed on April 22 in a bipartisan 94 to 1 vote — was “a remarkable statement” and marked a “remarkable chapter” for American history.
“Now, the next shoe I am waiting to see dropped is how quickly will the House act and how strong will the bipartisan support be with this historical legislation,” Choi said. “As all Americans, we should support the proposition that xenophobia is not acceptable in our country and has no place in our American society.”
According to Koh, pervasive stereotypes that cast Asian Americans as a racial monolith can damage their ability to receive health care, especially during the pandemic. One recent study, Koh said, found that less than 0.2 percent of the National Institutes of Health budget was dedicated to AAPI health research.
“Clinicians must overcome their own implicit biases and avoid making any assumptions about an AAPI patient,” Koh said. “Don’t assume anything about their ethnicity, place of birth, languages spoken or not spoken, socioeconomic position, culture, spouse, sexual orientation, or worldview.”
Despite the fact that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., Watanabe said Asian Americans have long been seen as "other."
“We have been seen but not really seen, and the consequences of this is that when a group is invisible, they are often marginalized, they are often subject to prejudice,” Watanabe explained.
“There have been some dominant racializations and one of them is a notion of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners,” he added.
To address racial animus against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Choi said she believes it is vital to dispel the model minority stereotype and include Asian American voices in government and in corporations.
“It’s that kind of individual dialogue with systemic recommendations where collectively we can — and we must — make progress,” Choi said.
—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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