Those words were once again utteredby the twice-impeached, former president of the United States last weekend in Orlando and, as has become the status quo, they were met with rambunctious applause from the Republican Party faithful.
For the better part of a year, the highest power in the land, the person with the largest microphone in the land, repeatedly used the phrases “China Virus” and “Kung-Flu” to describe COVID-19.
Let me tell you something, anybody who looks like me knows exactly what that means. What the intent of using those words actually is. Make no mistake about it, it is 100% racism and for the people who say it, and the people who look past it, and the people who don’t immediately denounce it, and denounce it every time that is said, you are complicit actors in spreading the kind of racism that ultimately has escalated itself into violence and murder.
I carry fear with me everywhere I go
I fear that the violence against Asian Americans will only get worse. I fear that people like me, who have a platform, who have the responsibility and opportunity to speak out, could be the next victims of violence. It’s a fear that I carry with me everywhere I go. Every knock at the door. Every time I get out of the car to fill up my gas tank. Every time I run to the grocery store. It’s a fear that will always be there as long as people who are in power and who seek power see fit to use racism as their preferred instrument of war.
If the events of Jan. 6 should tell us anything, it’s that members of the Cult of Trump take very literally the extreme and dangerous things said by Donald Trump and his fellow arsonists of democracy. They aren’t just empty words. They are directives. They are orders. And these white nationalists are willing to act on them.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, there have been more than 3,000 reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans in the past year. Two weeks ago, a man was caught on tape attacking an Asian American woman in Flushing, Queens, a main hub for the Asian American community. An 84-year old Asian American was attacked while taking a walk through his Bay Area neighborhood, and he died two days later. The rise in violence prompted the state of California to commit $1.4 million toward helping Asian Americans report hate crimes.
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The Biden administration released an executive order acknowledging “the Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin. Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons.”
We need much more than gestures
It’s a symbolic first step and a meaningful one after watching the highest officeholder in the land use the White House microphone to hurl racial slurs against the AAPI community for a year. But the reality is we need more than just symbolic gestures and occasional mentions. Asian Americans are under siege.
Just last week, a 36-year-old Asian American man walking down the street in New York City was attacked and stabbed in the torso. A family in Orange County is the target of habitual harassment, so much so that neighbors have taken to literally guarding the family’s home. I was talking to a college student the other day who shared with me the story of how she was walking downtown in San Francisco, and a man came up to her and just spit on her. Just the other day, after appearing on MSNBC, I got a two-word message from a person that read, “retard chinaman.”
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The fact is Asian Americans are not safe in their homes. They aren’t safe walking down the street. They aren’t safe on the subway. They aren’t safe at restaurants. They aren’t safe anywhere. It’s 2021, and one of the two major political parties in America is applauding the provocation of hate crimes against the AAPI community.
The Republican Party has declared open season on Asian Americans. Our blood is on their hands.
Kurt Bardella is a Korean-American, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and a former Republican. He was spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2009-2013. Follow him on Twitter: @KurtBardella