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COVID-19 and Asian Identity: Ways to Advocate Against the Discrimination by Heather Law

July 21, 2020

Bawi Cung Nung, a Burmese-American man residing in Texas, decided to go shopping at Sam’s Club one evening along with his 2-year old and 6-year old sons. While shopping for bread, Nung suddenly felt a punch on the back of his head. At first, he believed it was a friend joking around with him. After turning around, he was slashed in the face with a knife.  


The attacker ran away soon after striking Nung. However, he returned shortly after to attack Nung’s son, Robert, who was sitting in the cart. Nung attempted to pull the cart away but unfortunately was too late. Robert, in turn, suffered a large cut from his ear to his cheek. 


The suspect was identified as 19-year-old Jose L. Gomez. Gomez was said to have believed Nung and his sons were of Chinese descent and were infecting others with the novelty coronavirus (COVID-19). Gomez was later charged with three counts of attempted capital murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (1).


Unfortunately, Nung’s case is not unique. Since COVID-19 first erupted in Wuhan, China, people of Asian descent have been experiencing increased discrimination regardless of whether or not they identify as Chinese. Several government officials have also advertently and inadvertently encouraged this kind of xenophobia; one of the most notable leaders who has been consistently contributing to this attitude is U.S. President Donald Trump, who often uses anti-Chinese rhetoric and imposed several travel bans in the region.


As a result, attacks have been more widespread than ever before. According to Stop AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Hate, an aggregator that has been researching and devising preventative measures for hate crimes towards Asians. Stop AAPI Hate found nearly 1,900 anti-Asian discrimination reports from March to May (2). 


In order to fight this prejudice, advocates have developed several strategies to help combat this racism:


  1. Internet/Social Media: Social media and the internet as a whole is a double-edged sword. People can hide behind a screen and many feel they can express their feelings and perspectives under an anonymous user without experiencing the consequences. Not only that, but the internet provides an easy way to circulate more hate that is then exposed to hundreds of thousands of people. On the flip side, the internet is also a great place to distribute information quickly and to large masses of people efficiently. So rather than using social media to reshare the toxicity, you can use it to your benefit to inform and educate others not to exacerbate the situation.
  2. Donate to Organizations: Several organizations have been established to study the distribution of hate crimes and how to respond to them. Strong groups are a necessary factor to denounce structural racism by acting as channels for information and lobbyists for change. However, these organizations often struggle to receive funds, and consequently, cannot execute effective research. One distinguished group that was previously mentioned is Stop AAPI Hate (3). Stop AAPI Hate have advocates that
  3.  “ asked [California Governor Gavin Newsom] for $1.4 million to fund research on how the coronavirus is affecting AAPI health in connection to racism and to establish a racial bias strike team to investigate the mounting problem of COVID-19-related hate incidents against Asian Americans.” In the end, the state budget, voted on last month, excluded money for initiatives supported by the Asian American community” (4).
  4. Support Local Asian Businesses: Many Asian businesses took a hard hit when COVID-19 first began to increase. Even formerly popular restaurants in New York City’s mostly Chinese neighborhood, Flushing, and San Francisco’s Chinatown received little to no customers. Also, many people would target Asian-owned businesses and vandalized the store, leaving the owners distraught (5). By supporting local Asian companies, your contribution would allow the stores to reflourish and show others how COVID-19 should not be  associated with those with an Asian identity. 
  5. Encourage Friends/Family: Change starts with those around you. So when you hear anyone close to you that has a biased perspective, politely call them out. Correct them when they call the virus any other name that is derogatory to the Chinese/Asian population and explain why it is wrong for them to refer to it that way. People tend to be more willing to listen to those they feel closely connected to. Afterward, encourage them to also address the issue to others and explain why it is wrong. One way you can do this is by suggesting to school/work faculty and administration to release a statement addressing the issue and provide support to those who have been physically or verbally attacked.


Ending racism may seem like a difficult and impossible goal to achieve. Admittedly, it is going to be very difficult, but it is not impossible. Everyone, regardless of background, can play a role in promoting social change by collectively working together. Only then will we be able to create a more peaceful, accepting world. 


  1. Morris, Author: Dana. “Local Heroes Meet, Victims Recovering after Sam's Club Stabbing.” newswest9.com, March 17, 2020. https://www.newswest9.com/article/news/community/sams-club-follow-up/513-976f5bb2-6fb2-44f3-bb62-d773a1e93a54.
  2. Anti-Asian Incidents Across U.S. Near 1,900 over 8-Week Period, 2020, http://www.asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/Press_Release_6_9_20.pdf
  3. “STOP AAPI HATE.” A3PCON - ASIAN PACIFIC POLICY and PLANNING COUNCIL. Accessed July 16, 2020. http://www.asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/stop-aapi-hate/.
  4. Do, Anh. “'You Started the Corona!' As Anti-Asian Hate Incidents Explode, Climbing Past 800, Activists Push for Aid.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-07-05/anti-asian-hate-newsom-help.
  5. Peng, Sheng. “Smashed Windows and Racist Graffiti: Vandals Target Asian Americans amid Coronavirus.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, April 10, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/smashed-windows-racist-graffiti-vandals-target-asian-americans-amid-coronavirus-n1180556.

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