Republicans’ normalization of anti-Asian sentiment and the risks it poses

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., holds a weekly news conference, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is one of many who oppose the racism against Asians and Asian Americans. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Two weeks ago, on Sept. 17, the House of Representatives voted to condemn racism against Asians and Asian Americans tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure simply asked public officials to denounce any anti-Asian sentiment and investigate hate crimes that may have come from the idea that people of Asian descent caused the COVID-19 outbreak. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Grace Meng and was passed in a 243-164 vote, with all 164 oppositions coming from Republicans.

Overall, the measure did not name President Donald Trump, but it did mention the terms used by him and other Republican representatives, such as, “the Chinese virus,” “Wuhan Virus” and “Kung flu.” Such terms have made China, Asians and Asian Americans, into the enemy and created the belief that all Chinese people, even those who were born and raised here, were the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same people who naively believe that Chinese people were the sole reason the U.S. was affected by the COVID-19 epidemic are also the same people who don’t know that there is more to Asia than just China. And so, Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. are being affected by this anti-China mentality. 

Many House Republicans tried to justify their opposition to the resolution. In an article by The Washington Post, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan called the legislation, “another opportunity to attack the president” and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said it was “ridiculous” and a “waste of time.” However, I believe the many Asians and Asian Americans who have lost their businesses, been verbally harassed and physically injured or scarred over this anti-Asian sentiment would believe differently. How do any of the House Republicans’ reasons justify 164 votes against this bill, which simply asks for anti-Asian sentiment, racism and discrimination to be condemned by all public officials? How is the desire to protect rightful American citizens from attack a “waste of time” in McCarthy’s eyes?  

In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minn. The Trump administration has taken action to attempt to ban popular apps WeChat and TikTok. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Trump’s presidency has been painful to witness – especially his handling of COVID-19 and his method of demonizing China to try and make them the enemy. The desire to ban WeChat threatened my parents’ communication to all their family back in China, a country they left to give my sister and me a better life. Yet, I can’t help but think that trying to ban WeChat and TikTok is no better than China banning Google. If that’s the case, what better life did my parents leave their friends, family and financially stable lives for? 

I always viewed the University of Connecticut as forward thinking and understanding of what ‘diversity and inclusion’ truly meant. Over my past four years, I managed to find a home here with my Asian-interest organizations and Asian American Cultural Center – a privilege I came to realize not all schools have. However, with everything that’s happened since we were first sent home for spring break, I finally opened my eyes and discovered that UConn still has a lot of room to grow. Over the summer, a UConn student posted a TikTok joking that Chinese people ate bats. Amidst all the hate crime that’s been caused by the spread of this misinformation, this TikTok was very insensitive and disappointing to watch. I’ve never been so disappointed in my own community. I felt like the people I share this campus with didn’t truly respect me or the experiences I go through. At one point, I feared going to the grocery store with my parents because I was scared that someone would verbally or physically harass them. The fact that the student who posted that didn’t understand or empathize with that is privilege and just shows how far UConn still has to go in educating its students on what ‘diversity and inclusion’ really means. 

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The University of Connecticut’s Chinese Undergraduate Student Association would like to issue a statement in response to a TikTok that has recently been shared on social media. Olivia Davidson, a UConn student and a member of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega (AXO), filmed, edited, and posted a racist TikTok video that depicted a Chinese person eating a bat. As a Chinese cultural organization, we would like to express our disappointment and sadness regarding the contents of this video. Not only was the content racially insensitive and offensive, but it also depicts Chinese people in an incorrect manner, which further perpetuates a false and harmful stereotype. We are also aware that the timing of the video was deliberate – we are currently living in a world where Asian Americans are being blamed for the impact of COVID-19, which has led to violent and fatal acts of racism towards the Asian community on a global scale. Secondly, we are extremely disappointed that this behavior is from one of our peers, a fellow UConn student. We hope that both the UConn Administration as well as her sorority (@uconnaxo) take appropriate action and that the student is held accountable. Additionally, we hope that Olivia Davidson takes the time to educate herself on why her behavior was so problematic. This should be a learning experience for her, and we invite her to engage in the many resources UConn has on cultural education. The University of Connecticut (@uconn) has a duty to ensure the safety of all of its students; those needs are not being met if this student does not face consequences for her actions. To our members who saw the video and were personally affected by it, we are sorry that this is happening. Please know that CUSA is always here for you, and know that we will be fighting for the University to give us the respect that we deserve. Sincerely, CUSA E-Board

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In the midst of all of this, Black lives still aren’t getting the justice they deserve. Respect for human lives has been turned into a political opinion. And, as I’m writing this, our current president refused to condemn white supremacy. So, to the 164 House Republicans who voted nay to this legislation, I want to ask, what is a human life worth to you? I want to say I’m disappointed, but I’ve been disappointed, and I’m not sure how much more I can keep saying that before I lose all hope. 

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