The Asian Culture Center and the School of Public Health Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion co-hosted a webinar/panel discussion, "COVID-19 Exposed," on April 8, 2020. Additional questions were asked, so please see below for responses from faculty and staff members
Rodrigo Armijos, MD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health
Aurora Le, MPH, CPH, CSP, Academic Specialist, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
Lesa Hatley Major, Associate Professor, Media School
Barbara McKinney, Director, Bloomington Human Rights Commission
Dina Okamoto, Class of 1948 Herman B Wells Professor of Sociology, Indiana University; Director, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES)
Radhika Parameswaran, Herman B Wells Endowed Professor (Class of 1950) Professor, Journalism, The Media School
Cynthia Wu, Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Asian American Studies; Director of Race, Migration, and Indigeneity
Ellen Wu, Associate Professor, History; Director, Asian American Studies Program
If you were unable to attend, you can view the recording here:
Many thanks to our panelists: Dr. Rodrigo Armijos, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Cedric Harris, Director of Bias Response, Division of Student Affairs, Aurora Le, Academic Specialist, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and Dr. Lesa Major, Associate Professor, The Media School. Special thanks to Ochmaa Escue, Director, OVPDEMA Overseas Studies and Scholarships Program, for providing technical assistance.
Attendees at the webinar submitted questions throughout, many of which the panelists could not answer due to time constraints. We have sought out answers to these questions and have posted them below. We appreciate the faculty and staff who helped answer these questions.
A:Response from Barbara McKinney, Director, Bloomington Human Rights Commission "The studies I've seen suggest that crimes in general, including hate crimes, are more likely to happen in urban areas than rural or semi-rural areas. I'm not an expert, but as far as hate crimes, I assume that this is based at least partly on the fact that urban areas tend to be more diverse than rural areas.And it may be a reporting issue as well --urban areas are more likely, I think, to encourage reporting and to have set up procedures to report hate crimes and bias incidents than rural areas."
A: Response from Cynthia Wu, Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Asian American Studies; Director of Race, Migration, and Indigeneity "That depends on what you mean by "setback." If by, setback, you mean a diminished sense of safety in public spaces, then yes, you could say this is a setback for Asians and Asian Americans. However, I believe that this is an opportunity for Asians and Asian Americans to become politicized in ways that could establish meaningful connections with other social clubs, fraternities, and other organizations that are focused on providing a place at the table for people of color. What does it mean, for instance, that African Americans have always feared for their safety in public spaces? How might Asian Americans and African Americans organize together to make our society more livable for all people? Instead of Asian American social clubs leaving their work at the level of creating spaces for Asian American people to hang out and socialize--which is important in its own right--how might these clubs prioritize activism?" A:Response from Dina Okamoto, Class of 1948 Herman B Wells Professor of Sociology, Indiana University; Director, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) “The impacts of anti-Asian bias may very well carry over to campus, but the students that I have encountered in my classes have understood that racial stereotypes and anti-minority rhetoric often serve the purpose of maintaining the status quo, distracting from larger structural explanations for social problems, and benefiting those in power. In the case of COVID-19, such acts maintain and elevate white supremacy, and ensure that Asians are “othered” and seen as the problem, rather than looking to the problems such as the lack of universal health care and the dearth of political leadership, which has led to social and economic fallout, as well as the deaths of thousands of Americans. In short, racial bias against Asians and Asian Americans due to COVID-19 is a social setback, and reminds Asians how precarious their position as a racial minority in the US can be, but it is not an insurmountable one. Students need to speak up if they see or hear anti-Asian bias or discrimination; this is the first step in countering racial stereotypes and xenophobia.”
A: We have forwarded this question to other departments and we are awaiting responses.
A:Response from Rodrigo Armijos, MD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health “Since its formation in 1962, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) has been responsible for officially naming emerging viruses. The process of naming viruses, as part of their classification into the taxonomic system, considers various aspects of viruses. This includes the type of nuclei acid, morphology, target organ, disease produced, form of replication, and geographical distribution. Until mid-1970s, emerging viruses were named after their place of origin. For example, Ebola virus was named after River Ebola in Zaire; Rift Valley Fiver Virus, after an outbreak of an unknow hemorrhagic fever in Kenya where Rift Valley is located. Zika virus was named after an unknown virus isolated from a rhesus monkey in the Ziika Forest in Uganda in 1947. Currently, the name given to emerging viruses considers the syndrome caused by the emerging or reemerging virus. Examples include immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV 2). The name given to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in 2012, a corona virus included the region of origin in order to differentiate from other corona virus that was responsible for the 2002-2004 outbreaks.”
A:Response from Aurora Le, MPH, CPH, CSP, Academic Specialist, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health “As mentioned in the webinar, acts of racism and discrimination being brought out are against people who physically present as East Asian or what people think a Chinese person looks like. I do not think racist people are aiming for ethnic accuracy; they are primed to be hateful toward anyone they perceive to be "other" and as a person or group to put misplaced blame.I do not think people should differentiate and react differently to racism targeting Chinese versus other Asian and Asian Americans of different ethnicities, or any other race for that matter because any racism absolutely not acceptable. All racism should be met with pushback and disapproval in our society. As mentioned in the webinar, if you see a person of Asian descent being the victim of racism in public, say something.If you see racist comments online, especially on social media websites, report it. Be an ally. Educate your networks that this type of racism is occurring in our country at this time and to not turn a blind eye to the issue.”
A:Response from Ellen Wu, Associate Professor, History; Director, Asian American Studies Program “I don't think that perpetrators of these hostilities ranging the gamut from micro-aggressions to explicit verbal harassment to violence towards anyone who "appears" Chinese--differentiate between China, people of Chinese ancestry, and Asian Americans as a whole (especially this with East Asian backgrounds). So my first reaction would be to caution us not to rely on insisting we (Asians/Asian Americans) are "not Chinese" or that we are "American." This type of defense is useless and potentially damaging. We can see how it's useless by referring to historical examples. During WorldWar II, for example, it didn't matter that US-born Japanese Americans insisted that they were "not Japanese" (ie, not Japanese nationals) and that they were "good Americans." The US government locked them up anyway, and justified their mass incarceration with racial profiling logic (as one military leader famously put it, "A Jap is a Jap.") Indiscriminate violence against persons who "appear" Muslim after Sept 11 attacks are another example of how racists don't bother to distinguish between groups. A white gunman horribly slayed six Sikh Americans at an Oak Creek, Wisconsin temple in August 2012. Many Chinese/Asian Americans to address dire needs of the COVID-19 emergency by working as a group --fundraising to donate and purchase masks, gloves, and so forth. I recognize that these efforts ARE important to solving major problems in our health care response efforts. But Chinese/Asian Americans should not feel more than any other people that they have to "prove" that they are good citizens at this momentas a response to anti-Chinese/anti-Asian racism. So that leaves us with the question: what should we do? How should we respond? One crucial step is documenting and reporting these incidents,so at the very least we have a record and as accurate data as possible. Many people in this country don't even register that Asians exist, or that Asians face any racial "problems." One example close to home is the recent "Bridge Initative"report commissioned by the City of Bloomington, released December 30, 2019. Last year, a research team from The Ohio State University (Bridge Initiative @ Moritz) conducted an investigation of race relations in Bloomington. The report completely ignored any mention of Asians/Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and issues that these populations face with regard to racism and discrimination. We need to hold our local, state, and federal officials accountable for these types of oversights. Finally, we need to keep in mind that the communities of color suffering the most deeply during this COVID-19 emergency are our African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinx neighbors, colleagues, and friends. Everyone needs to figure out together how we might alleviate these discrepancies. In other words, racism and COVID-19 doesn't begin or end with Asian Americans.”
A: Response from Rodrigo Armijos, MD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health "The rate of testing in the U.S., Indiana and Monroe County is still limited and mostly confined to symptomatic people. This is because of the scarcity of available tests. However, it is important to point out that both the virus detection (PCR) test and antibody test are critical in order for the local public health system for accurate the COVID-19 pandemic status. Once we have sufficient testing capability, the Monroe County public health officials will be able to make evidence-based actions for controlling COVID-19 in the local community."
A:Response from Wei-Cheng (Wilson) Hsiao, Ph.D., HSPP, Staff Clinical Psychologist, Counseling and Psychological Services "In general, people do feel extra alienation for different reasons under the current public health crisis. Depends on what led to the feeling of extra alienation, we may have to process them differently. Thus, they are encouraged to contact CAPS, Daisy, or me if they would like to consider the tele-counseling as the alternative form to process their feelings of extra alienation. Additionally, I would also like to encourage us to further reflect upon the interactions between body and mind. That is, the interactions between being physically alone (body) versus feeling psychologically lonely (mind).There are times we are physically alone and feels lonely psychologically. However, there are also times that we are physically alone, but not necessarily feel psychologically lonely. Interesting enough is that sometimes when we are not physically along and surround with a lot of people, we still feel psychologically lonely, isolated, or alienated from the environment. Of course, most of the time when we are not physically alone, we do not feel psychologically lonely while engaging in the interactions with our surroundings. Thus, understand how we cope with each situation may help us realize that we might already have the self-care tips within ourselves. Nonetheless, if people are looking for some activities that they can engage to let them feel less alienated, attached is the informational handout I usually give to students. Some of the activities are suitable for people to engage under the current “stay at home order.” Please also see the Asian Culture Center's resources on fighting racism in COVID-19 times.
A:Response by Radhika Parameswaran, Herman B Wells Endowed Professor (Class of 1950)Professor, Journalism, The Media School "The media have begun covering the racial barriers shaping the impact of Covid-19 among communities of color only recently (last two weeks or so). For the most part in the initial stages, media were using neutral labels like healthcare workers, low-income communities, service workers, etc. to address the impact of the virus, failing to see how race, class and gender intersect to marginalize particular demographics of populations who work predominantly in these occupational communities. Another example. I kept hearing news media reports about high-dollar elder care homes and institutions and how residents in these places were being adversely affected, but not much about elderly poor people of color. They veered to the homeless population for a while, but not those caught in the middle....between extreme poverty and the well-off. People of color and especially men of color are likely to be perceived as threatening when they wear masks. In addition to historical stereotyping of African-American and Latino men as dangerous, there is this new form of apparel that renders them unknowable....people cannot read their faces to study them so it can trigger anxiety in members of the dominant races, thus bolstering racism even more. For Asian groups in the U.S. wearing masks can make them seem even more like foreigners, not part of the nation. This is a perception that people have from their travels in Asia where some Asian people do wear masks on public transportation. I have heard some racist comments like, “they just wear masks without even knowing why.” Or other comments like, “Do they know the science behind why we wear masksat this time?””
A:Response from Lesa Hatley Major, Associate Professor, Media School "While I don’t have research findings to support my thoughts on this topic, I found the early news coverage on wearing face masks in public confusing. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face coverings in public especially when “social distancing measures are hard to maintain” (CDC website).
A:Response from Lesa Hatley Major, Associate Professor, Media School "Journalists must provide accurate information in order to protect the public, but they must be careful not to stigmatize members of the public. If journalists do not cover COVID-19 responsibly, it can lead to negative stereotypes and harmful actions against certain groups based on prejudices.”
A:Response from Ellen Wu, Associate Professor, History; Director, Asian American Studies Program “Xenophobia is a huge part of President Trump's "brand," as well as the Republican party's policy priorities. Xenophobia (fear of or hostility towards "foreigners") is strongly connected to racism because the vast majority of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to the United States come from "not-white" parts of the world. This week Trump announced his intention to block *all* immigration into the United States. He can now use COVID-19 as justification to push his anti-immigrant/refugee policies forward. There are a lot of non-profit/watchdog organizations that have long worked steadily to safeguard the rights of migrants and improve their living conditions. Many journalists are working hard to document xenophobic incidents and policies. Migratory Notes provides an incredibly thorough weekly roundup of coverage. Local groups include Bloomington Refugee Support Network, El Centro Comunal Latino, and UndocHoosiers Bloomington. IU's Asian Culture Center is our best resource Bloomington for Asians and Pacific Islanders. All of these advocates continue to do this work under extremely stressful conditions currently. Let's support them when we can.”
A:Response from Dina Okamoto, Class of 1948 Herman B Wells Professor of Sociology, Indiana University; Director, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) “Social media has stoked divisions and raised xenophobic fear about COVID-19, and the consequence has been a rapid increase in the number of anti-Asian bias incidents. Local and national advocacy groups are speaking out about the issue of Asian American discrimination on social media and to their representatives in Congress. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have both issued statement condemning anti-Asian racism. Groups such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice have plans to create education and media campaigns; provide information, direct assistance, and resources to those affected by anti-Asian sentiment and attacks; and advocate for local and federal policies to address racial profiling and hate crimes. Organizations such as the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council along with the Chinesefor Affirmative Action have started to collect data on anti-Asian discrimination, which will be important for documenting trends and understanding the scope of the issue. At the federal level, a group of Democratic senators recently sent a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, requesting that the agency issue guidance on how the government should respond. The Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) engaged in coordinated efforts to address anti-Asian incidentsrelated to SARS in 2003 and anti-Muslim incidents after 9/11, but both federal agencies today have been noticeably silent. A multi-pronged, continuous effort by local, state, and federal agencies as well as advocacy and community nonprofits is needed toaddress xenophobia. We need to name the problem, educate the public, and work together as communities to solve immediate as well as systemic inequities, and provide support for the most vulnerable. We need to fundamentally rethink many of our policies and practices. In many ways, xenophobia interventions can be translational to racism. An unfortunate fact is that many Americans believe that racism no longer exists, so it will be hard work to get people to recognize that racism exists. Social media and grassroot efforts can help to educate the masses, but leadership and policies are also key in setting and legitimating norms and practices for the American public.”
A: Response from Lesa Hatley Major, Associate Professor, Media School “Yes. For example, Fox Business host, Trish Regan was removed after she politicized COVID-19. Journalists do have a code of ethics. I’m not sure it is always easy for the public to distinguish between reporting and commentary.”
A:Response from Dina Okamoto, Class of 1948 Herman B Wells Professor of Sociology, Indiana University; Director, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) “Asian Americans can support African Americans by continuing to direct attention toward the fact that black communities are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and dying at higher rates because the conditions of systemic racial discrimination put blacks in harm’sway. Asian Americans can emphasize the facts that black communities are more likely to have health conditions making them vulnerable to COVID-19 such as hypertension and diabetes; to work in jobs that do not allow for social distancing; and have less access to health care. These disparities are not due to the “bad choices” that African Americans make, but to the legacy and history of racial discrimination and inequality in the U.S. Racist policies and practices enacted by federal governments and local institutions have brought us to the present moment, creating an unequal playing field. Asian Americans can educate themselves about these inequalities and develop a racial analysis to understand the racial disparities in infection and death from COVID-19. What else can the Asian American community do? Support mutual aid societies and food banks that serve black communities in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and other cities across the nation. Support, volunteer, and work with Black Lives Matter and local organizations to enact social, community, and political change. Asian Americans must work in coalition and cooperation with black communities to abolish anti-blackness and racial discrimination, so that we can create a more equitable, just society for all."
A:Response from Rodrigo Armijos, MD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health “All persons in public settings need to cover their mouth when coughing. Face masks should be used by all people, even those without any symptoms to avoid transmission of COVID-19 virus. All persons need to take the issue of COVID 19 seriously by following recommended public health recommendations.”
A: Response from Rodrigo Armijos, MD, Associate Professor, School of Public Health "These are two distinctly different epidemics including type of virus, route of transmission, target organs, and disease characteristics. HIV is a slow progression chronic disease, meanwhile, COVID-19 an acute progression disease. Unfortunately, for both diseases unenlightened individuals looking for scapegoats on to blame target groups (LGBTQA, Asians community). Emerging infectious diseases can appear in any place and spread nowadays since we are a global community. Fortunately, scientific, and technologic advances are helping the scientific community to characterize the virus, define its routes of transmission, and describe the clinical spectrum of COVID-19. This information is being collected currently a relatively short period of time by the scientific community, allowing the public health sector to develop effective control measures (e.g., physical distance, use of face mask) until effective treatment and protective vaccine can be developed. This is happening more quickly than the fight against the HIV epidemic, which took much longer to control."
A:Response from Lesa Hatley Major, Associate Professor, Media School “I provide some context for this in my answer to question three [within the webinar]. I believe we need more coverage educating people about COVID-19 and reducing stigma and racism.”