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‘No question’ Trump’s racist rhetoric fuelled anti-Asian hate, says White House

Ex-president insisting on referring to Covid-19 as ‘China virus’ blamed for spike in discrimination

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 18 March 2021 12:31 GMT
Trump defends using the phrase ‘China virus’
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Joe Biden’s White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said there is “no question” that racist rhetoric used by Donald Trump and his allies has led to a spike in discrimination against Asian Americans.

President Trump repeatedly labelled the deadly respiratory disease the “China virus” or “Wuhan flu” throughout the last year as his administration oversaw the loss of half a million American lives to the pandemic and he sought a scapegoat for his own mishandling of the crisis, attempting to pin the blame on China, where the virus was first identified.

Mr Trump had also stoked Sinophobic sentiment during his trade war with China, which he once declared he had been chosen by god to commence, and attempted to attack his Democratic presidential rival by nicknaming him “Beijing Biden” on the campaign trail.

“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration - calling Covid the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things - led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair... has elevated threats against Asian Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country,” Ms Saki said during her Wednesday briefing.

Her remarks came after eight people were killed in shootings at three massage parlours in Atlanta, Georgia, six of them Asian American women.

A 21-year-old white suspect has been arrested but the motive for the killings has yet to be definitively established.

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That atrocity also coincided with the release of a new study by Stop AAPI Hate that found that Asian Americans were subjected to nearly 3,800 hate incidents over the last year.

Verbal harassment and shunning accounted for 68 per cent of the incidents recorded in the report while physical violence made up 11 per cent, with over 503 reports of violence occurring in 2021 already.

“The number of hate incidents reported to our centre represents only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face,” the authors of the study wrote.

President Biden moved to address the matter in his televised speech to the nation last week unveiling the $1.9trn Covid relief bill newly passed by Congress.

“At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, are on the frontlines of this pandemic trying to save lives," he said, referring to healthcare workers. "And still, still they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America.”

He acknowledged “Asian Americans who’ve been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated” and declared: “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop.”

He has since referred to the possibility of a racial motive being behind the Atlanta shootings as “very, very troublesome”.

Other racist incidents attacking the community recently observed in the US include the phrase “F** China” being written in hay on the lawn of a church in Seattle and the phrase “Kung Flu” spray-painted onto a ramen restaurant’s window in San Antonio, Texas.

California congressman Ted Lieu has also accused Mr Trump of inflaming the situation, tweeting on Monday: “The former president used racist phrases like Kung Flu that inflamed discrimination against the Asian American community. Officials that continue to use ethnic identifiers in describing the virus are part of the problem. Please instead be a part of the solution. #StopAsianHate.”

His congressional colleague Judy Chu agreed, tweeting on Tuesday: “Our community has been facing a relentless increase in attacks and harassment over the past year.”

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