As the COVID-19 virus spread across the globe, Asian American Studies professor and chair Russell Jeung was busy tracking a different corrosive contagion: xenophobia. Early on he noticed a sharp rise in media reports about coronavirus-related racism, a finding he highlighted in reports sent to California civil rights groups. As a result, some of those groups are now working with the Asian American Studies department to track — and hopefully help stop — pandemic-inspired harassment.
Dr. Russell Jeung, chair and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU), joined Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle to discuss the uptick in racialized incidents directed toward Asian Americans as well as the broader historical and geopolitical contexts. He spoke on the steps people could take to address the issue and help prevent the harm that could result.
Attacks on East Asian people living in the US have shot up during the pandemic, revealing an uncomfortable truth about American identity. Authorities in New York City and Los Angeles say that hate incidents against people of Asian descent have increased, while a reporting centre run by advocacy groups and San Francisco State University says it received over 1,700 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination from at least 45 US states since it launched in March.
Fifty-one years ago, San Francisco State became the first university in the country to establish a College of Ethnic Studies. Seven years ago, SFSU graduate student Alicia Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter.