Race and Coronavirus: San Francisco Bay Area residents share their stories of hate and new solutions

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Friday, April 3, 2020
Race and Coronavirus: Bay Area residents share their stories of hate and new solutions
Since the coronavirus outbreak began we wanted to share stories from Asian Americans who've experienced COVID-19 related hate.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Since the coronavirus outbreak began ABC7 News wanted to share stories from Asian Americans who've experienced COVID-19 related hate.

These stories aren't just anecdotal.

WATCH HERE: ABC7's interactive town hall 'Race and Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation'

In the past two weeks, more than 1,100 instances have been reported from an online reporting portal set up by San Francisco State University's Asian Studies Department, Chinese for Affirmative Action and other civil rights groups.

Here are just some of the reports received through that online portal.

"Walking into the medical clinic where I work as a resident physician, yelled at by someone outside who was likely a homeless patient: go back to f**king China!"

"A white male customer was behind me while checking out groceries, yelling I need to leave this country, that I'm disgusting and don't look at him or he'll kill me."

"I was walking with my wife in our neighborhood when a car drove by and someone with a bullhorn yelled at us something unintelligible except we could make out him saying "f**king- virus".

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As the virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China spread around the globe, so did the hate. Many people were outraged by President Trump's repeated use of the term "Chinese Virus" and his initial refusal to cease using the phrase. An FBI intelligence report obtained by ABC News even warns Americans to brace themselves for an onslaught of hate crimes against Asians.

But before we can begin to combat xenophobia, we must understand where the anti-Asian sentiment began.

It was long before COVID-19.

RELATED: Get the latest live updates on coronavirus crisis

Historians say it has been deeply rooted in American history, starting with the gold rush. But 1850 there were laws like the Exclusion Act, banning Chinese from immigrating to the United States.

Pam Wong, director of the Chinese Historial Society in San Francisco says this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"There was a Supreme Court law case, that made it illegal for Chinese to testify. I believe the Chinese were fighting for their rights from the very beginning whether or not they won is another issue. But they were really against the discrimination and injustice they were facing." says Wong.

Today there is a new generation of Asian Americans taking up the fight against discrimination. Many believe the incident earlier in 2020 where an older Asian man was seen on camera getting beaten and humiliated and called racial slurs while collecting cans in the Bayview of San Francisco was the catalyst for millions around the world to speak out.

VIDEO: Elderly Asian man attacked, humiliated while collecting cans in San Francisco neighborhood

"It really triggered and flipped the switch inside me to do something and to help them out. 10-15 years ago we didn't have the power to do this but now we can use the power of social media and fight back and create awareness and set and example." says David Nguyen of the duo behind the social media account Jackfroot.

That sentiment prompted celebrities and other Instagram accounts such as AsiansNeverDie and AsiansWithAttitudes to, along with David to use their platforms for more than their intended purpose, but for the greater good.

"I wanted to shift away from the more comedy and make our page to make a difference. Just all this news on racism, so we knew in our hearts we couldn't let it slide, so we decide to use our platform to impart change." says David's 'Jackfroot' counterpart, Tien Nguyen.

That change is also coming from lawmakers. Assemblymember Phil Ting sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, asking xenophobia be denounced. Both the governor and Mayor London Breed took swift action.

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

With a whopping 47 percent of racially charged incidents recorded by the Stop AAPI Hate center happening in the workplace, community groups and businesses are collaborating to make a statement. The founder of non-profit Better Brave, which combats workplace harassment and discrimination, teamed up with socially conscious fashion brand UPRISERS and the wildly popular Facebook community Asian Hustle Network to start the hashtag #HateIsAVirus.

"Even my grandma who I love so dearly, she immigrated here when she was 21. When I told her what this movement meant and what we're trying to do, she doesn't understand the digital impact and she can't wrap her head around that. At the same time she's like what's the point of doing this? Why create chaos? I was like grandma...we're not creating chaos, we're creating change." says Michelle Hanabusa, founder of Uprisers.

The campaign's founders say Asian-owned businesses are reporting an 80 percent drop in revenue due to xenophobia fueled by COVID-19. The Golden Gate Cookie Factory, a San Francisco Chinatown institution believes the drop is closer to 90 percent. The goal of #HateIsAVirus is to not only educate but to raise $1 million with the hope of keeping those businesses afloat. All with the help of their 100,00 plus followers...a generation who've already made more than 2 million impressions online for the cause.

"For us it's different. We speak English very, very well and we understand cultures really well. and We're trying to really create a difference and that foundation to stop racism and xenophobia that's going on.

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

We pivoted from a group that's more about entrepreneurs but now it's a group that's like hey, we see the struggles going on, let's unite with each other and push through and fish racism and support he community right now. It's one of the most crucial times to stick together." says Bryan Pham.

It's not just groups of Asians coming together to shed light on xenophobia in America today. This week, leaders from the Congressional Hispanic, Black and Asian caucuses joined forced to condemn the racism. Aimee Allison, founder of She The People, an organization dedicated to elevating the voices of women of color believes the path to true acceptance must spread across ethnic backgrounds.

"We're at this point in our lives where many people are concerned about food and shelter and the basics. But we're also being called to show personal courage to uphold fundamental values and protections in our communities. It requires every person to reach down deep and show care not only for our own families and neighbors and friends but for the broader community. This is how we get through this pandemic. That's how we come out on the other side. A stronger community. We can't separate now. and pit one group against each other. We can't tolerate that. It's not how we build a stronger country." smiles Allison.

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