EXPLORING HATE: POTENTIAL SURGE IN HATE CRIMES AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS

STATE LAWMAKER EXAMINES RISE IN RACIST INCIDENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

ASSEMBLY MEMBER YUH-LINE NIOU: ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY SUBJECT TO SLURS AND ATTACKS

NIOU: PRESIDENT TRUMP’S “CHINESE VIRUS” REMARKS “FUELS AND JUSTIFIES” RACISM

NIOU: PRESIDENT IS “LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO BLAME”

New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, representing Lower Manhattan, talks about the troubling rise in racist incidents against the Asian American community since the coronavirus outbreak. Niou examines the historical roots of anti-Asian xenophobia in the U.S., describes verbal and physical attacks against herself and her constituents, and talks about why she believes President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” is fueling racist behavior.

Aired on March 30, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> WELCOME TO METRO FOCUS I'M JACK FORD.

WE'VE BEEN COVERING ALL ASPECTS OF THE CORONAVIRUS HERE IN THE CITY, IN THE KUCOUNTRY AND INDE THE WORLD.

WE'VE LOOKED AT MEDICAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF THE CRISIS HOW IT CAN EFFECT US INDIVIDUALLY, BUSINESSES, GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES, WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL ASPECTS? THERE'S BEEN VERY UPLIFTING STORIES WE'VE SEEN ABOUT COMPASSION AND COOPERATION BUT WE'RE ALSO HEARING TROUBLING AND EVEN UGLY STORY S ABOUT HARASSMENT.

INDEED, PHYSICAL ASSAULTS ON ASIAN-AMERICANS.

WHY IS IT HAPPENING?

WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP IT?

AND WHEN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF US AS A NATION AND HOW WE DEALT WITH OUR IMMIGRANTS THAT CONTRIBUTES TO ALL THIS.

A LOT TO TALK ABOUT.

WE'RE PLEASED TO HAVE JOINING US NEW YORK ASSEMBLY MEMBER DISTRICT OF LOWER MANHATTAN.

SHE JOINS US TO EXPLORE HATE ON THE ONGOING PROJECT OF THE ROOTS AND RISE OF EXTREMISM OF ANTI-SEMATISM.

ASSEMBLY MEMBER THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

THANK YOU FOR COVERING THIS IMPORTANT TOPIC RIGHT NOW.

I WANT TO START OFF, THERE'S A LOT TO TALK ABOUT, CERTAINLY WE'LL GET TO CAUSES AND WHAT WE CAN DO BUT LET'S START FRAMING THIS CONVERSATION WITH PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, THINGS YOU HEARD FROM YOUR OWN CONSTITUENTS AND THINGS YOU'VE EXPERIENCED AND BEEN SUBJECTED TO YOURSELF IN TERMS OF BIAS AND DISCRIMINATION A RISING FROM THE CORONAVIRUS.

SO I WANT TO SAY IT IS NOT ACTUALLY A RISING FROM THE CORONAVIRUS, I THINK THAT THERE IS A LOT OF XENO PHOBIA AND RACISM THAT WAS FUELED BY A LOT OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING BECAUSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS.

I WOULDN'T SAY THAT THE VIRUS ITSELF MAKES PEOPLE RACIST.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IS ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW, VERY HURTFUL AND VERY, VERY OBVIOUS AND STARTING TO BECOME MORE AND MORE VIOLENT WHICH IS CONCERNING.

THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE PUNCHED FOR WEARING MASKS, PEOPLE WERE PUNCHED FOR NOT WEARING MASKS, PEOPLE WERE THROWN INTO SUBWAY STATIONS, AND THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE SPRAYED WITH CHEMICALS ON BUSSES AND ON A SUBWAY CAR.

YOU KNOW.

IT'S JUST LIKE, IT'S RIDICULOUS HOW CERTAIN THINGS HAVE BEEN MESSAGED AND FRAMED A LOT OF THE ANTI-ASIAN SENTIMENT.

I HAVE BEEN GETTING CALLS FROM PEOPLE SAYING I EAT BATS.

THEY HAD TO LOOK UP IN THE, YOU KNOW, ASSEMBLY DIRECTORY, TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHO IS AN ASIAN-AMERICAN TO MAKE A PHONE CALL TO.

YOU KNOW.

THAT I FRY UP A DOG AND A CAT IN MY WOK.

I SEEN YOU SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING, IT ECHO WHAT'S YOU SAID NOW.

WE HAVE COUPLE EPIDEMICS GOING ON.

FOR CERTAIN A HEALTH AND MEDICAL EPI EPIDEMIC.

YOU CAN ALSO POINT TO THE EPIDEMIC OF XENOPHOBIA.

TO YOUR POINT THIS HAS BEEN CREATED BUT ADDED FUEL TO THE ZEEXENOPHOBIC FIRE.

AS SOMEONE WHO COMES FROM TAIWAN, AFTER ALL OF THE DECADES BEING HERE, ASSIMULATED INTO SUCH AN INTEGRAL PART OF OUR SOCIETY, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT STILL EXISTS?

I THINK BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE STEREOTYPES THAT ARE STILL OUT THERE.

I THINK THERE'S A STEREOTYPE OF THE MODEL MINORITY MYTH AND SAME TIME THERE'S A STEREOTYPE THAT IS ALMOST THE SAME OF THE PERPETUAL FOREIGNER.

IT'S A CONSTANT OTHERING THAT HAPPENS, EVEN WITH SO MANY GENERATIONS OF ASIAN-AMERICANS HAVING BEEN HERE STARTING FROM THE RAIL ROADS AND BEYOND THAT.

I THINK THAT IT'S BEEN A VERY STRANGE PHENOMENON, CYCLE THAT WE SEE THROUGHOUT HISTORY, WHETHER IT'S THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT OR JAPANESE ENTURNMENT, ET CETERA, ET CETERA.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD I WENT TO SCHOOL IN EL PASO, TEXAS, AND I REMEMBER WHEN MY MOM CHECKED BI LINGUAL BOX, I WAS PUT INTO SPANISH AND EEK -- ENGLISH BECAUSE THEY HAD NO CONCEPT OF ANOTHER LANGUAGE OUTSIDE OF SPANISH AND ENGLISH.

RIGHT.

I ALSO AS A KID I GOT MADE FUN OF FOR MY FOOD.

I WAS STILL MADE FUN OF FOR JUST HAVING NOODLES, BY THE WAY, NOODLES.

I WAS TOLD I WAS EATING WORMS AND IT WAS JUST BECAUSE I WAS ASIAN-AMERICAN AND I REMEMBER I USED TO GO HUNGRY EVERY DAY BECAUSE I WOULD THROW MY LUNCH AWAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED BECAUSE I WAS SO SCARED OF MY OTHER CLASS MATES AND THIS ISN'T SOMETHING THAT'S NEW, IT'S JUST THAT PEOPLE USE THIS PANDEMIC AND USE THE CORONAVIRUS AS AN EXCUSE AND A FUEL TO THE FLAME.

ONE OF THE VERY SAD AND TRAGIC TRADITIONS, IF YOU WILL, OF OUR IMMIGRATION -- PLAYS INTO THAT OTHERNESS THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT.

THE OTHERNESS THAT IS CERTAINLY SUPER IMPOSED UPON ALL IMMIGRANTS COMING IN.

SOME MORE THAN OTHERS GOING TO THE 1840'S AND 50'S WITH THE IRISH COMING IN WITH THE CLAIMS THEY BROUGHT DISEASE AND PLAGUES AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, 1900'S THE EASTERN EUROPEANS WITH THE SAME LABELLING, BRINGING DISEASE.

YOU TACKED ABOUT THE JAPANESE INTURMT.

LET'S LOOK AT COMMENTS TODAY MADE BY THE PRESIDENT AND MEMBERS OF HIS ADMINISTRATION LABELLING THIS THE CHINESE VIRUS.

NOW, THE PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO THE QUESTION, HE SAID HE MEANS THAT IN A GEOGRAPHICAL SENSE BECAUSE IT EMNATED FROM THERE.

HOW DO YOU THINK THAT PLAYS INTO THIS VERY SAD AND TROUBLING TRADITION OF THE PAST WITH ASSOCIATED DISEASE AND IMMIGRANTS AND WHAT THE IMPACT HAS BEEN ON WHAT BEER TALKING ABOUT NOW ATTACKS ON ASIAN-AMERICANS.

I THINK IT VERY MUCH DRIVES IT, VERY MUCH PERMITS IT.

IT JUSTIFIES.

HE'S USING IT AS JUSTIFICATION.

HE HAS SINCE SENT ANOTHER TWEET SAYING DOESN'T MEAN TO EFFECT ASIAN AMERICANS HERE, ONE THING THAT REALLY HURTS IS BECAUSE OF THE PERPETUAL FOREIGNER SYNDROME, WHEN I WALK ON THE STREET PEOPLE DON'T GO ASIAN-AMERICAN, IT'S ALWAYS, OH, SHE'S CHINESE.

I THINK THAT IS WHERE SOME OF THAT LANGUAGE COMES IN, RIGHT.

THERE'S A LOT OF THE LANGUAGE THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT.

WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT IMMIGRATION.

WHEN HE'S TALKING ABOUT IMMIG IMMIGRATION, WHEN HE'S TALKING ABOUT THE WAY PEOPLE ARE MOVING TOWARDS THE BORDER.

WHATEVER, THE WAY HE'S USING THE LANGUAGE, INVASION, THESE TERMS HE USES, IT'S VERY MUCH TRYING TO KIND OF MESH THOSE TWO THINGS TOGETHER.

RIGHT.

VERY MUCH TRYING TO MESH THE WHOLE IMMIGRATION DISCUSSION WITH DISEASE DISCUSSION WITH SOME KIND OF TAKE OVER.

SOME KIND OF, YOU KNOW, CONTAGION, RIGHT.

I THINK IT MAKES IT SO THAT THE LANGUAGE YOU IS VERY PURPOSEFUL AND THE MESSAGE IS ALSO VERY AGGRESSIVELY MESSAGED IN A WAY THAT MAKES IT SO THAT THERE IS A DIRECT MENTAL TIE, AND A DIRECT LANGUAGE TIE TO THESE THINGS, AND WE'VE SEEN HOW IT'S BEEN THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

LIKE, WE SAW HITLER DOING IT TO JEWISH FOLKS.

WE SAW FOLKS WERE DOING IT IN THE EARLY, LATE 80'S AND EARLY 90'S WHEN IT WAS THE AIDS EPIDEMIC, RIGHT.

AND WE SAW IT AGAIN WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT EBOLA ET CETERA.

THERE WAS A HISTORY OF IT.

RIGHT.

PEOPLE USED TO MAKE WAR BASED OFF HOW THEY NAME ILLNESSES, SPANISH INFLUENZA.

ET CETERA ET CETERA.

WE'VE SEEN IT.

WE KNOW WHERE IT'S COMING FROM MENTALLY AND WE KNOW WHAT THE MESSAGING IS THAT HE WANTS TO DELIVER AND I THINK THAT SOME OF THE SENATORS WHO HAVE DONE THE SAME THING, SOME OF THE CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS WHO HAVE DONE THE SAME THING ARE TRYING TO ACTUALLY JUSTIFY THE RACISM.

RIGHT.

LET ME ASK YOU THIS.

YOU MENTIONED SPANISH FLU.

INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH IT DIDN'T BEGIN IN SPAIN, THAT'S A MYTH AND HAS BEEN PERPETUATED MORE THAN 100 YEARS.

THAT ASIDE.

AS WE MENTIONED THE PRESIDENT SAID HE CALLED IT THE CHINESE FLU BECAUSE A GEOGRAPHICAL NOMANCLATURE AND HE'S SAID WE DON'T NEED TO BLAME OUR ASIAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES.

HE WERE TO ASK YOU FOR ADVICE, AS TEDDY ROOSEVELT SAID IT IS A BULLY PULPIT AND WORDS CARRY ENORMOUS IMPACT.

HE SAID WHAT CAN I DO TO DIMINISH THESE ASSAULTS ON ASIAN-AMERICANS WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST HE DO?

I WOULD SUGGEST HE NEVER USE THAT TERMINOLOGY.

AND I WOULD SUGGEST HE STOP USING THAT TERMINOLOGY.

AND I WOULD SUGGEST THAT HE ACTUALLY ACTIVELY IS TRYING TO -- I WOULD SUGGEST HE APOLOGIZE.

BUT I MEAN, THAT WOULD BE ME.

BECAUSE I ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE POLITICAL DOWN THE LINE THAT HE'S THINKING ABOUT RIGHT.

HE WANTS SOMETHING TO BLAME JUST LIKE MANY OTHER POLITICAL LEADERS HAVE BEFORE FOR HIS OWN INABILITY AND HIS NOT SOLVING OF THIS ISSUE.

WE'VE SEEN, THERE HAS BEEN MEDIA, JOURNALISM THAT HAS ALREADY COVERED ALL OF THE THINGS HE SAID, IT'S NOT AN ISSUE, GOING TO BE FINE, IT'S GOING TO BLOW OVER, BLAH BLAH BLAH.

AND THEN IT JUST CAME OUT OF NOWHERE.

I THINK THERE'S BEEN A MISHANDLING ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SIDE OF THINGS AND HE'S AFRAID OF HIS OWN REELECTION AND HE'S AFRAID PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BLAME HIM FOR WHEN RIGHTFULLY SO FOR SOME OF THE LACK OF RESPONSE THAT OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT P HAS BEEN MAKE AND I THINK HE WANTS TO BLAME THINGS ON SOMETHING ELSE.

HE WANTS TO BLAME ASIAN-AMERICANS.

HE WANTS TO BLAME CHINESE PEOPLE.

HE WANTS TO BLAME CHINA AS AN ENTIRE COUNTRY.

AND I THINK THAT IS A VERY INTERESTING WAY OF DIVERTING ATTENTION AND TRYING TO SHIFT BLAME FOR SOMETHING THAT, YOU KNOW, THAT I THINK PEOPLE ARE NOW VERY VISIBLY SEEING, WHICH IS THE INACTION OF OUR GOVERNMENT IS KILLING PEOPLE.

MOVING FORWARD.

MAYBE IT'S A TWO-PART QUESTION.

IN TALKING TO YOUR CONSTITUENT WHO'S SAY THINGS SUCH AS I DON'T KNOW IF I SHOULD WEAR A MASK.

MAKES SENSE MEDICALLY BUT DRAWS ATTENTION TO ME.

DO I WEAR A MASK.

DO I NOT WEAR A MASK.

WHEN BUSINESSES OPEN AGAIN.

WHAT SORT OF IMPACT WILL HAVE IT.

WHAT SORT OF ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS ABOUT PROTECTING YOURSELF NOW AND THEN MOVING FORWARD, PERSONALLY AND IN TERMS OF THE ECONOMICS, BUSINESSES MOVING FORWARD IT TO TRY TO ESCAPE FROM THIS LABEL.

OH, I DON'T THINK THERE'S MUCH I CAN SAY ON THAT FRONT.

I JUST FEEL LIKE I KNOW WHAT EVERYBODY'S GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW AND I KNOW MANY OF OUR BUSINESSES PROBABLY WON'T EVEN BE ABLE TO REOPEN.

PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THAT THE RACISM THAT HAS BEEN PERM EATING THROUGHOUT OUR COUNTRY ACTUALLY HIT MY DISTRICT SO HARD, WAY BEFORE THE VIRUS -- BEFORE THERE WAS A FIRST DIAGNOSIS OF ANYBODY IN THE UNITED STATES MUCH LESS IN NEW YORK, AND I THINK OUR BUSINESSES THE HAD ALREADY STARTED TO FEEL LOSS OF BUSINESS FAR BEFORE THAT.

AND SO MANY FOLKS IN MY COMMUNITY HAVE FACED THIS KIND OF RACISM FOR SO LONG AND THE SADDEST THING IS THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TELLING ME, LIKE, I'M USED IT TO IT.

THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE.

THAT IS PERHAPS THE MOST UNFORTUNATE ASPECT OF THIS, YOU CAN SAY.

BECAUSE IT'S BECOME SO PERVASIVE.

PERHAPS THIS MIGHT BE A MOMENT WHEN WE CAN AFFECT SOME CHANGE.

I DO WANT TO THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN ASSEMBLY MEMBER, THANK YOU FOR TALKING WITH US AND SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS AND I CAN SAY YOUR CONST CONSTITUENTS OF YOUR COMMUNITY ARE FORTUNATE TO HAVE SOMEONE LIKE YOU TO LEAD THEM THROUGH THIS, THANK YOU AGAIN FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU AGAIN REAL SOON.

THANK YOU.

ALL RIGHT YOU BE WELL.

YOU TOO.

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