Coronavirus impact: Asian community fighting racism, xenophobia, bigotry as world fights COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With the spread of the coronavirus also comes a rise in xenophobia and racist incidents toward the Asian American community. But many in the Bay Area are trying to combat the hate and are speaking out.

Business owner Timmy Leong described an unpleasant and unexpected interaction he had with a man next to him while in the restroom of a San Francisco restaurant this week.

"He was wipe-drying his hands and turned to the right and coughed and said 'damn cough from China.' My adrenaline was going and I sat down and it took me five to ten minutes to calm down," he said, shaking his head.

Incidents like this are just the tip of the iceberg. As the world fights coronavirus, which originated in China, Asian Americans fighting the virus of bigotry.

RELATED: 20-year-old arrested after attack on Asian man collecting cans caught on video, SFPD says

Just this week, a woman in Fresno shared photos with us showing her father's van emblazoned with coronavirus-related hate speech graffiti.

In a presentation by San Francisco State's Asian American Studies department, countless images from around the globe protesting the Chinese and other Asian countries were shown. Many with speech so vile, they cannot be shared.

RELATED: 'Fight the virus, not the people!' SF Chinese-American leaders protest xenophobia following COVID-19 outbreak

In the last 2 weeks, the group reviewed 141-news stories in the US related to coronavirus discrimination.

How about globally? 37 cases a day. That's just the ones that go reported.

Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action believes it is during times like the coronavirus outbreak that there needs to be specific measures in place about bullying.

"To make sure, government agencies are set up with a hotline to track how many incidents are actually occurring. We see it on social media, but it definitely needs to be better documented and better tracked," he said.

Pan also believes there is a key to stopping the fear from turning into hate: starting at the top, referring to a briefing made by President Trump on Wednesday and certain media outlets.

"When the president calls this a foreign virus, when you see members of congress calling it the Chinese coronavirus, this is a public health situation and we know it affects all people."

San Francisco State's Asian Studies Department is launching a reporting center on Monday so they can better track incidents when they happen.

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.