When the coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in Wuhan, China, Asian American communities across the country braced themselves for the coming stigma.
“I think it’s definitely something of concern for us,” said Bintao Feng, former president of the Peninsula Chinese American Association. “We have to prepare for the stigma but what we’re trying to do is show we’re in solidarity with the rest of society.”
Feng said he hasn’t experienced much of the racism or stigma in the community, but he sees a lot about it on the news across the country. There are thousands of Asian Americans in the region that look at this virus and have to prepare for the potential blame.
But for individuals such as Feng, it’s more than just an issue of nationality. Feng has been a U.S. citizen for more than two decades but he still has family — his parents and sister — in China. When the coronavirus first broke out, he said it was still scary even though his loved ones were in relatively safe parts of the country.
Now that it has been months since the coronavirus first started in China, Feng said the Asian American community is working to be known as part of the solution and not the root.
“We’re part of the community,” he said. “Our kids go to school here, we work here, so whatever affects the whole society will affect us.”
Elizabeth Tai, former president and current member of the PCAA executive committee, said she also hasn’t seen the stigma impact her locally but she’s been prepared for it by hearing stories from across the country.
As a U.S. citizen for more than 50 years, she said she just wants people to remember the Asian American community can be a source of good during this time of crisis.
“We are all Americans,” she said. “Chinese Americans are Americans so we want to stop the fear and hate. We want to be part of the solution.”
To help with the local crisis relief efforts, PCAA decided to raise funds and collect personal protective equipment for local medical professionals.
PCAA recently sent a call out to members and friends and collected more than 10,000 items of PPE that was donated to Mary Immaculate Hospital the next day.
Following that the organization was able to gather more than 15,000 items of PPE that was donated to other medical facilities in the area.
Tai said a huge part of this help came from members’ friends and family who were still in China.
“When China started spreading the virus they needed masks and goggles, so the Chinese here purchased those items and sent them over,” she said. “Now that China has controlled the virus a bit, they’re doing the same for us.”
Members of the organization and friends from China also have been giving money to the cause. In the first few weeks, PCAA raised $16,000 and Tai said the donations haven’t stopped.
Tai said she hopes the stigma won’t continue to be associated with Asian Americans after the pandemic has passed. Even before the coronavirus, PCAA worked hard to be a part of the community and support local efforts while still maintaining their heritage.
Tai said the organization, which has been established in the area for more than 40 years, held Chinese school each week which taught students about language and culture and also participated in local volunteer work, Christmas parades and other events.
“So we are all working to help each other now,” she said. “Now it’s global, it’s not just America that isn’t okay, and we have to help each other.”
To learn more, visit PCAA online.
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