Statement from the Board: Asian People Are Not a Disease

The Berkeley chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, urges rejection of the dangerous anti-Asian language surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as seen in the describing of the disease as the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus” against the recommendations of the World Health Organization. This racist language has encouraged the harassment and beatings of Asian Americans, including school age children, in the past months. We are dismayed that the the presidency itself has been sullied by this kind of disgraceful ignorance.

We have seen this scapegoating before in times of crisis. In 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was beaten to death on the eve of his wedding day by laid-off auto workers in the Detroit area. These workers, believing Chin was Japanese, misguidedly blamed Japanese Americans for “taking over” the American auto industry and causing their unemployment.

 Needless to say, as Japanese Americans we have a special knowledge and a special duty surrounding scapegoating of ethnic groups, and it is critical that we align with all Asian Americans at this disturbing and threatening time.

As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni observed last week, the virus will “first bring out the quirks in our personalities, and then it will be a referendum on our character. We are now entering the character phase.”

Our chapter urges each of us to allow this crisis to bring out the best, not the worst, in each of us. Please resist and speak up against the scapegoating of Asian Americans for the current pandemic. It is utterly un-American.