18 March 2020

Anti-Asian violence spiking amid top-down racist panic

The corporate media are not the only ones using the coronavirus outbreak to foment xenophobia and racist attacks against Asians, which are escalating now. The Republicans are eagerly following the Democrats’ lead on this, as they did with Yemen. The President has doubled down on calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’, as well as some of his staff like Mike Pompeo. Republican lawmakers like Kevin McCarthy, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, John Cornyn and Paul Gosar are all trying to pin blame on China, per se (the population as well as the government) for the outbreak of the virus. They are being led in this endeavour by the out-and-out racist bloviating of noted not-so-reformed neocon and general television clown Tucker Carlson.

The people most likely to suffer from this secondary outbreak of race panic are not, of course, the Chinese people living in China. In general, they will be fine – outside a few places like Hong Kong where classism and anti-mainlander discrimination are the new post-Umbrella norm. But the most vulnerable people here will be Asian-Americans, including those in the Chinese diaspora. The beatings and the verbal abuse have spiked, even in the White House in one case.

This is not a partisan complaint, I hasten to note. I am as critical of CIA-aligned corporate Democrats like Dana Bash, who use dog-whistles and collective defamation in order to stir up this kind of racism against Asians. That does not, however, excuse the deliberate use of such a dog-whistle among Republicans to foment a race panic. The corporate Democrats are practised in disguising their hatred of the Chinese people (among others) behind liberal pieties, which is bad enough. But the Republicans weaponise it in order to deflect blame from their own hideous mismanagement and misgovernment of the American people during a time of crisis.

There will be an increase of pressure on Asian-Americans – particularly those in positions of prominence – to vocally decry and denounce the Chinese government in order to prove their ‘loyalty’. I fear that many of them will not be able to resist that pressure, with middle-class Asian-American respectability politics being what they are. Furthermore, it is clear that the Beltway think-tank Republicans (like those in the Hoover Institute) who have been targeting the Chinese-American community for such pressure since at least 2018, are also looking for ways to shift the blame away from themselves and toward the People’s Republic for the bigotry that they face at home. For now at least, Asian-American lawmakers, notably including the redoubtable Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, have not been silent, and kudos to them. But Asian-Americans in general need to wise up to this playbook, and fast. They also need to understand that this campaign against them has been percolating for a long time in a very deliberate fashion: COVID-19 is only a convenient cover.

Yes: I am very, very angry about this. And I won’t pretend to be a disinterested party, either. I’m a husband and a father who is very intimately involved in the concerns of at least one immigrant and two Chinese-born mixed-race children. There needs to be a reckoning for the way in which these high-up Republicans have abused this crisis.

EDIT (18 March): If you or someone you know experiences a racially-motivated attack, I have been informed that OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates has a link that can be used to report it; just scroll to the bottom of the page. I would encourage the use of this resource if my gentle readers happen to come across a genuine incident against an Asian or an Asian-American here.

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