Asian Americans targeted as virus spreads

Stereotypes play out in classrooms, among teens


As the number of cases of COVID-19 rose in the United States in recent months, reports of hate crimes and racial bias against Asian Americans spiked, and Miramonte High School wasn’t spared.

Miramonte students have witnessed racial bias against Chinese Americans both on the news and closer to home. 

“I have not experienced any racism directly, but I do have some people close to me that have experienced first-hand racism in public against Asian Americans,” Miramonte senior Sydney Gong said. 

“I have been paying attention to the news regarding this topic and it is truly terrifying to see how hate crimes against Asian Americans are only increasing. People are getting beaten up and heckled,” Miramonte junior Tom Inouye said. “One woman even had acid dumped all over her body in New York. It’s horrifying to see these hate crimes that affect my own community.”

Some Miramonte students have witnessed racial bias against Asian Americans in the classroom and from peers.

“My teacher told my whole class that COVID wouldn’t come here if Asians just didn’t eat bats and said a bunch of other untrue things that turned into jokes with my classmates,” sophomore Olivia Huynh said. “Also, one of my friends said we shouldn’t talk about BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) people within my all-white friend group — besides me — and was spreading false ‘facts’ to them. COVID seems to be giving people a free pass to make fun of Asians.”

“Because of the virus, there have been a lot of bat-eating ‘jokes’ towards others and to myself that I’ve noticed,” senior Haley Lim said. “One person at Miramonte told me to my face many times that I have coronavirus and basically said every Asian person does. Honestly, racism towards any person of color is extremely normalized in Lamorinda, but especially towards Asian people. When Asian people were getting beaten up in San Francisco and like around the country because of COVID, no one even talked about it or paid attention to it.”

At Miramonte, the campus’ Equiteam is looking to understand the effects of racial bias related to coronavirus among the student population. Equiteam is a student-run organization that “promotes racial equity and seeks to disrupt and challenge racism in the school community,” Equiteam staff leader and Miramonte teacher Steve Poling said. Along with Poling, fellow Miramonte staff members Christina Orangio, Megan Flores, and Ellen Conners advise Equiteam. 

Equiteam recently released a survey titled “COVID-19 & Race: Questions for Students,” which asks the student population at Miramonte if they have encountered racism as a result of the pandemic. 

“On the survey, students reported seeing and hearing racist comments, jokes, and insults toward Asians that were directly related to the COVID crisis,” Poling said. The survey found that although only 8.6 percent of respondents experienced racism as a result of the pandemic, 58.1 percent said that they have noticed their own racial or class privilege during this time. 

In the future, Equiteam hopes to raise awareness of white privilege and assist marginalized groups by creating acceptance in the school community. “We plan to hold a school-wide discussion on race and COVID-19. This will be one in a series of discussions we sponsor on equity and anti-racism,” Poling said.

A poll conducted in April by the Center for Public Integrity and Ipsos, a market research company, reported that approximately 32 percent of respondents witnessed Asian people being blamed for the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, 24 percent of respondents said they are worried about coming into contact with a person of Asian descent, and 46 percent said they would be concerned if an Asian person is not using sufficient protective gear. In an article detailing the results of the poll, Ipsos stated that of the 44 percent of respondents who blame a specific group or organization for causing the pandemic, “45 percent mentioned China or Chinese people generally, 13 percent said it was caused by a lab in China, and 9 percent blamed the Chinese government.”

The increase in hate crimes and racial bias targeting Asian Americans because of the pandemic’s origin in Wuhan, China, spurred a variety of reactions.

One response was a new center dedicated to recording hate crimes and harassment of Asian Americans. 

Launched in May and founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department, Stop AAPI Hate has a mission of documenting hate crimes and harassment that targeted Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. AAPI stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

In a Stop AAPI Hate press statement released in May, the group said it has received more than 1,700 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination against Asian Americans. An additional 800 reports were counted by the group in late August.

According to AAPI, nine out of ten complainants believed they were targeted due to their race. For example, one victim reported, “We were holding a public webinar in Chinese on COVID-19 and families. In the last minutes, we were Zoom-bombed by a group, and participants were exposed to racist and vulgar images, curses, harassment, and name-calling.”

A New York healthcare worker wrote, “I saw a maskless man sit across from me on the subway. I moved to the other side of the train car and he followed. He spat and coughed on the subway while yelling racial slurs. No one stood up for me.” 

In Thousand Oaks, “A white woman in an SUV mounted the curb to try and run over one of my family members taking a walk for exercise. This woman saw that they were Asian, pulled over, started yelling and spitting at us, drove off, then turned around and tried to run them over with her car and even mounted the sidewalk to chase them.” 

In Georgia, another person wrote, “I was in line at the pharmacy when a woman approached me and sprayed Lysol all over me. She was yelling out, ‘You’re the infection. Go home. We don’t want you here!’ I was in shock and cried as I left the building. No one came to my help.”

Also, in Pasadena in May, a man threw a drink at a group of Asian Americans while yelling racial slurs, according to the online publication Pasadena Now. The man was later arrested. 

The East Bay Times reported that in April, five Asian-owned businesses near San Jose were vandalized. And a Facebook post in April reported that a second-grade California student stated in a Zoom class, “I don’t like China or Chinese people because they started this quarantine.”