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Attacks on Asian Americans must be forcefully condemned | COMMENTARY

A demonstrator participates at a rally "Love Our Communities: Build Collective Power" to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence outside the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles Saturday, March 13, 2021. Los Angeles County officials are stepping up their efforts to battle hate crimes against Asian Americans. The "LA vs. Hate" initiative encourages people to call 211 if they are victims or witness an incident of hate. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A demonstrator participates at a rally "Love Our Communities: Build Collective Power" to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence outside the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles Saturday, March 13, 2021. Los Angeles County officials are stepping up their efforts to battle hate crimes against Asian Americans. The "LA vs. Hate" initiative encourages people to call 211 if they are victims or witness an incident of hate. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (Damian Dovarganes)

Over the weekend, Gov. Larry Hogan was asked on CNN about attacks on Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his response was direct and forceful calling them “outrageous” and “unacceptable.” The governor has some direct knowledge of this. His wife, Yumi Hogan, is Korean American, and he told host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that she, their three daughters and their grandchildren have suffered its effects.

“We feel it personally with my daughter, who sort of is sometimes afraid to come visit us, with people who had best friends that were being harassed at the grocery store, or being called names, and people yelling about the China virus, even though they’re from Korea and born in America,” Governor Hogan said.

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Such behavior is unconscionable, and we commend Governor Hogan for his frank talk. It’s a point the Republican governor made several days earlier, too, posting on social media a 2018 photograph of his family with a shoutout to President Joe Biden, a Democrat, for condemning hate-crime attacks on Asian Americans in a national address from the White House last Thursday. In that speech, President Biden called such incidents “vicious” and “un-American.” The president observed how Asian Americans, some of them front line workers in the pandemic, were being “attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.” And he was correct: It is happening with shameful frequency.

A new study from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism found anti-Asian hate crimes in the nation’s largest cities is up 149% in 2020 compared to an overall drop in hate crimes of 7% during the same period. In New York City, for example, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes rose by nearly tenfold between 2019 and 2020. The study’s authors speculate that such incidents are greatly under-reported as these are only cases which result in a police report. Victims of hate crimes are frequently fearful of reprisal and reluctant to contact authorities.

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It’s not difficult to see what’s going on here. Then-President Donald Trump took particular glee in referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus” or “Kung Flu,” and he did so again and again at rallies to the point where anything China or Chinese would draw a chorus of angry boos and catcalls from his supporters. It was exactly the kind of frenzy that he conjured four years earlier when speaking out against Mexican and Central American immigrants. There was no subtlety here, no policy point, it was all about anger and hatred and an America First vision that judges nonwhites as the enemy. Nor did it help that China became the favored boogie man of the Republican right-wing raising furor to a level reminiscent of the Red Scare when hate-mongers in the late ’40s and early ’50s were convinced that the People’s Republic of China was bent on invasion by first infiltrating the highest levels of government.

That’s not to suggest the U.S. doesn’t have legitimate policy disputes with China. Of course, we do. China represents a national security threat as do Russia, North Korea and Iran, to name some others. But our dispute is on policy, not people. And unsupported claims that China deliberately unleashed the coronavirus or that it was even bioengineered in a government lab have been mindlessly repeated again and again to anger Americans. Even now, despite Mr. Trump’s departure from the White House, others have picked up the bile-spewing xenophobia: Last fall, no fewer than 164 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against legislation condemning racist attacks on Asian Americans related to COVID. It was dismissed by some as too “woke.”

That’s right, apparently it’s just too politically correct to be against the 2,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate, including assaults, that took place between March 19 and Dec. 31, 2020, according to the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate. Those attacks have included the stabbing of three members of an Asian-American family outside a Midland, Texas Sam’s Club (including a 2-year-old and 6-year-old) almost exactly one year ago by an attacker who thought they were Chinese and attempting to knowingly infect people with the virus.

Enough is enough. It’s never been acceptable to senselessly attack people on the basis of race or nationality, gender or creed, religion, sexual orientation or anything else whether there’s a virus or whatever the layers of ignorance involved. On this matter, America’s leaders ought to speak with one voice so that there’s no mistaking the truth: Stop the bullying, harassment and hate. Not in the times of COVID-19, not before and not after.

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This piece is written by the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board. Editorials are the opinion of the Board, which is separate from the newsroom. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, please send it to talkback@baltimoresun.com.

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