By Sarah Mizes-Tan
Sacramento has reported its first coronavirus disease case that isn’t travel-related, and now, Asian American advocates are worried that may cause a renewed wave of xenophobia towards the local Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
According to the Sacramento chapter of OCA, an Asian American advocacy organization, the region has seen a decrease in revenue to Asian American businesses, which they suspect is because people are avoiding them due to fears around the virus.
“In regards to Asian businesses, restaurants, stores, business has gone down,” said Gregory Jung, President of OCA Sacramento. “We just completed Chinese New Year and usually businesses are bustling with activity, but this year we’re seeing diminished revenue because people are just not going to restaurants and events.”
He also added they’ve heard of more hate crimes around Asian Americans. Officials in Los Angeles called on the public to refrain from scapegoating Asian American communities.
“We’ve also had incidents of hate crimes at schools, where Asian students are being bullied, the term coronavirus is mentioned, students are told to get away get out of here because you have the coronavirus, so that’s concerning us,” he said.
Sacramento State professor of Ethnic Studies Timothy Fong added that negative reactions towards Asian Americans during times of heightened fear of disease bring up old and harmful stereotypes.
“Historically, Asian immigrants have been blamed for all kinds of things, whether it’s venereal disease, kinds of communicable diseases because of old stereotypes of asians being not clean, being dirty, being not civilized, uncouth,” Fong said.
He cautioned that though the virus originated in China, it doesn’t mean Asian people are the only people who can contract and spread it.
Nancy Xiong, communications director for Hmong advocacy group Hmong Innovating Politics, a, said she had read comments on Facebook that spread misinformation about certain Asian-run businesses.
“The most recent one I saw was this fear of an employee at Ranch 99 having coronavirus and coming to work,” Xiong said. “But Ranch 99 put out a statement that said that’s false and it never happened, and I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation that’s going out there, especially in these local Facebook groups.”
To combat rising fears, the Asian Pacific American Advocates Sacramento Chapter is planning an educational forum about the coronavirus Wednesday March 4 at 6 p.m. at the Sacramento State University Ballroom.
This story has been updated with date and time of the coronavirus forum.
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