Building Community Awareness During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lewis Chapman Uncategorized

From the desk of Leslie Ishii
Artistic Director, Perseverance Theatre

Many are concerned that our Pan Asian and Pacific Islander/Native/Indigenous and Middle Eastern, North African and Arab communities continue to be at risk due to anti-Asian sentiment that is becoming more wide-spread since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. (PA/PI/N/I/MENAA=Pan Asian/Pacific Islander/Native/Indigenous/Middle Eastern, North African, Arab)

As top federal and local leadership continue to refer to COVID-19 utilizing anti-Asian rhetoric such as the “Chinese Virus” or “Wuhan Virus” or the “Kung-flu” or “Hong Kong Flu-y”, reports of racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks against PA/PI/N/I/MENA identified community members persists throughout Alaska, the US and globally. Understandably, members of the PA/PI/N/I/MENA Diaspora are reportedly fearful to go out to get even the most essential goods to take care of themselves throughout this Stay Home/Save Lives Mandate.

During this time of great uncertainty where our health and well-being is threatened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Perseverance is working to create awareness so that while we focus to target a fight against this pandemic, our communities do not fight and target each other by stereotyping marginalized groups. Perseverance sees this as an important opportunity to learn so we can live and work successfully together during these challenging times and well into our futures.

To get started and to create awareness, first read and share this article:
Asian Americans Report Nearly 650 Racist Acts Over Last Week, New Data Says

  • Did you know:
    • What is the difference between coronavirus and COVID-19?
  • Coronavirus is the infectious virus itself (the bug!).
    • COVID-19 is coronavirus the infectious disease (the sickness!)
  • What is a pandemic?
    • It is an epidemic of disease that has spread across a large area, ie, multiple continents or even worldwide.
  • Historic examples of pandemics:
    • The Black Plague of the 1300’s
    • The Influenza of 1918
    • Multiple coronavirus strains circulate regularly and generally cause common cold symptoms.
  • Previous international coronavirus outbreaks include:
    • SARS-Co-V virus in 2003
    • MERS-Co-V virus in 2014
    • Coronavirus/COVID-19 is the most recent strain identified to cause human disease
  • Richard Ebright, Ph.D., Rutgers University, “There’s absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of the virus that indicated that the virus was bioengineered.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize
that naming COVID–19 by its geographic location or linking it to a specific ethnicity perpetuates stigma, so in 2015, the WHO issued guidance calling on media outlets, scientists, and national authorities to avoid naming infectious diseases for locations to avoid stigmatizing groups of people• Yet, the use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric utilized by federal and local leadership related to COVID-19, such as the ‘‘Chinese Virus’’, ‘‘Wuhan Virus’’, “Hong Kong Flu-y”, and ‘‘Kung-flu’’ have perpetuated anti-Asian stigmas and has resulted in PA/PI/I/MENA Americans being
harassed, assaulted, and scapegoated for the COVID–19 pandemic.

  • 23,000,000 PA/PI/I/MENA Americans account for 7 percent of the nation’s population
  • Meanwhile, over 2,000,000 PA/PI/I/MENA Americans are working on the frontlines of this COVID–19 pandemic in health care, law enforcement, as first responders, in transportation, supermarkets, and other service industries
  • Since January 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in reports of hate crimes and incidents against those of PA/PI/I/MENA descent and according to a recent study, there were over 650 reported cases related to COVID-19 anti-Asian discrimination between March 29, 2020. o On February 27, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services stated ‘‘ethnicity is notwhat causes the novel coronavirus’’ and that it is inappropriate and inaccurate to call COVID-19 the ‘‘Chinese virus’’
    • Then on February 28, 2020, Dr. Mitch Wolfe, the Chief Medical Officer of the CDC said, ‘‘Stigma is the enemy of public health’’
    • The Secretary-General of the United Nations called for international solidarity and an end to any ill-founded discrimination of the outbreak’s victims
    • Public officials condemn all expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, scapegoating, or intolerance, and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form and recognize that the health and safety of all Americans, no matter their background, must be of utmost priority.

The increased use of anti-Asian rhetoric has also resulted in PA/PI/I/MENA American businesses being targeted for vandalism. There are approximately 2 million PA/PI/N/I/MENA American owned businesses that generate over $700 billion in annual revenue and employ nearly 4.5 million
workers. These communities are major contributors to the US and Global economies. Unaware prejudice and hate crimes to one marginalized group means that the racism will eventually target another marginalized group. Keep learning. Support each other by creating awareness especially when we notice prejudice happening in our communities. Share this information widely and be sure the context is to create understanding to dispel misinformation and stereotypes. Together we can keep each other safe and healthy!
If needed, report an incident: Stop AAPI Hate

To continue learning, go to:

  • www.ptalaska.org to support Perseverance Theatre and to receive local and state-wide programming updates!
  • www.caata.org to support national Pan Asian/Pacific Islander/Native/Indigenous/MENA artistic communities and to learn more about racial equity.
  • A presentation about the Coronavirus by Alvin J. Glasky, PhD:
  • Japanese American Citizens League, Alaska: www.jaclalaska.org/
  • View this website for more information on anti-Asian sentiment put forth by the National Japanese American Citizens League.

Getting help and support:·       

  • COVID-19 Resources – Asian American and Asian Studies – DeAnza College, CA: Addressing Anti-Asian Scapegoating has provided some resources for learning about these cases of anti-Asian hostility and discrimination, and addressing race-based scapegoating individually and collectively. There is a list of news sources, how to report a Hate Crime via Stop AAPI Hate and a link to the Santa Clara County health department for mental health resources.  Link here: https://www.deanza.edu/asam/COVID.html

To stay updated on health and safety mandates and recommendations:
CDC: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus, and WHO: www.who.int/