By Carycruz M. Bueno, Brown University, and Cruz Caridad Bueno, SUNY–New Paltz
Communities of color in the United States and throughout the world are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This health crisis has not just eroded the well-being of people of color (POC); it has exacerbated and brought to the forefront the racial, health, economic, gender, and education inequalities at the foundation of American society. The visible eruption of a multiethnic, multiracial, multigenerational, and international movement led by Black activists within the context of the pandemic is not a coincidence but a deliberate, organized effort to demand social justice for the very communities where this health crisis is felt most deeply. Coronavirus is not the “great equalizer” but the great exposer of how race in this country overdetermines social, health, and economic outcomes for POC.
Amid some lawmakers’ use of the racist terms “China virus” and “kung flu virus” and the media’s failure to report that the coronavirus actually arrived in the United States via Europe (not Asia), the Asian American community was among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19 in the form of physical and verbal assaults. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council has found an increase in the reporting of hate crimes against Asian Americans, with over 2,500 cases filed from March to early August 2020 (Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council 2020, Berman 2020, New York State Attorney General 2020). The heightened risk of physical and verbal attacks creates an untenable situation for Asian Americans, who must both protect themselves from the virus and attempt to stay safe amid the violence directed at them.