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Don’t blame Asian Americans like me for COVID-19 | READER COMMENTARY

Jessica Wong, of Fall River, Mass., front left, Jenny Chiang, of Medford, Mass., center, and Sheila Vo, of Boston, from the state's Asian American Commission, stand together during a protest, Thursday, March 12, 2020, on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston. Asian American leaders in Massachusetts condemned what they say is racism, fear-mongering and misinformation aimed at Asian communities amid the widening coronavirus pandemic that originated in China.
Jessica Wong, of Fall River, Mass., front left, Jenny Chiang, of Medford, Mass., center, and Sheila Vo, of Boston, from the state's Asian American Commission, stand together during a protest, Thursday, March 12, 2020, on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston. Asian American leaders in Massachusetts condemned what they say is racism, fear-mongering and misinformation aimed at Asian communities amid the widening coronavirus pandemic that originated in China. (Steven Senne/AP)

As a first generation Asian American, I read with dismay your article, “Chinese Americans report harassment, Increasing incidents amid virus shakes community” (May 16). I have wondered what my response should be if confronted by someone using racial epithets and blaming the coronavirus on me and anyone sharing my ethnicity.

I could engage the person in a meaningful conversation about our common humanity and citizenship. We could discuss that a disease process is not a racial entity. That Asian Americans should bear no more blame for COVID-19 than, for example, African Americans for the Ebola virus. We should strive for a more understanding and inclusive society for the sake of our children. That we can work together for future generations recalling Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Remind the person that, as Woody Guthrie wrote, “This land was made for you and me."

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Perhaps the response should be more personal. I could inform the harasser that my family has been in this country for more than 80 years. That my grandfather served in the U.S. Army and my father is a U.S. Navy veteran. That I was born and raised on Long Island and attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. And that I am currently seeing patients each day during the pandemic, putting my family and myself at risk.

On second thought, perhaps there’s a more succinct and effective response. Mustering my gruffest New York accent, I could say, “Hey, kiss my butt (perhaps using a less polite term)! At times, this is the quintessential way to assert your birthright as an American.

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Dr. Eugene Wu, Sparks

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