Discrimination Against Asian Americans

Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety

As bigots blame them for the coronavirus and President Trump labels it the “Chinese virus,” many Chinese-Americans say they are terrified of what could come next.


WASHINGTON — Yuanyuan Zhu was walking to her gym in San Francisco on March 9, thinking the workout could be her last for a while, when she noticed that a man was shouting at her. He was yelling an expletive about China. Then a bus passed, she recalled, and he screamed after it, “Run them over.”

She tried to keep her distance, but when the light changed, she was stuck waiting with him at the crosswalk. She could feel him staring at her. And then, suddenly, she felt it: his saliva hitting her face and her favorite sweater.

In shock, Ms. Zhu, who is 26 and moved to the United States from China five years ago, hurried the rest of the way to the gym. She found a corner where no one could see her, and she cried quietly.

That person didn’t look strange or angry or anything, you know?” she said of her tormentor. “He just looked like a normal person.”

As the coronavirus upends American life, Chinese-Americans face a double threat. Not only are they grappling like everyone else with how to avoid the virus itself, they are also contending with growing racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks. Other Asian-Americans — with families from Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar and other places — are facing threats, too, lumped together with Chinese-Americans by a bigotry that does not know the difference.

In interviews over the past week, nearly two dozen Asian-Americans across the country said they were afraid — to go grocery shopping, to travel alone on subways or buses, to let their children go outside. Many described being yelled at in public — a sudden spasm of hate that is reminiscent of the kind faced by American Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But unlike in 2001, when President George W. Bush urged tolerance of American Muslims, this time President Trump is using language that Asian-Americans say is inciting racist attacks.

Mr. Trump and his Republican allies are intent on calling the coronavirus “the Chinese virus,” rejecting the World Health Organization’s guidance against using geographic locations when naming illnesses, since past names have provoked a backlash.

Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he was calling the virus “Chinese” to combat a disinformation campaign by Beijing officials saying the American military was the source of the outbreak. He dismissed concerns that his language would lead to any harm.

On Monday evening, Mr. Trump tweeted, “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States.” He added they should not be blamed for the pandemic, though he did not comment on his use of the phrase “Chinese virus.”

History Informs Journalism – Asian Americans

Cartoon showing an Uncle Sam figure taken aback by a skeleton in the closet representing the Chinese Exclusion Act

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspended Chinese immigration for ten years. It was extended for another ten years in 1892.

Chinese migrated to the U. S. in the in the mid 19th century.  An estimated  15 to 20 thousand worked on the Transcontinental Railroad.  They faced discrimination from the American and Irish immigrants who also worked under harsh conditions to build the railroad.

Chinese immigrants also came to California to try to make their fortune after gold was discovered in 1848.  An estimated 25,000 Chinese left China for the U.S. specifically to work the gold mines.

By the end of 1851, Chinese workers made up one-fifth of the population of the four counties where people mined.  In 1870 there were 63,000 Chinese people in the United States and 77 percent were in California.

Thousands of white Americans also came to California looking for riches. But they didn’t realize that it was hard work and that they Chinese immigrants did the back breaking labor to make what they could. When the gold started to run out, the serious racism and attacks began.

An Opinion Piece From USA Today

Yang & Anti-Defamation League CEO: Avoid coronavirus racism and scapegoating

We have to join together to fight this virus effectively. Now is not the time to be torn apart by hatred.

Andrew Yang and Jonathan A. Greenblatt
Opinion contributors

We’ve seen politicians seeking to politicize the virus — decrying it as the “Wuhan virus” for example, or suggesting that foreigners solely are responsible for spreading it; we’ve seen Asian Americans and Jewish Americans and other minority communities blamed for the pandemic; we’ve seen some pundits pointing the finger at prominent Jews as if the virus was the product of some conspiracy; and we’ve seen internet chatter from white supremacists suggesting the disease is spreading in America thanks to an influx of foreigners.

How News And Entertainment Outlets Work Remotely

New York (CNN Business)

Many of America’s most popular and influential television hosts are now broadcasting live from bedrooms and basements. Some TV newscasts, magazines and websites are being produced completely remotely, with arrangements that were unthinkable a few weeks ago.

And more at-home studios are popping up every day — yet another consequence of the coronavirus pandemic that has upended life all across the United States.

Media companies are following the same social distancing guidelines as other industries. And some broadcasters are self-quarantining because they’ve been in close proximity with people who tested positive for the virus.

What’s lost: Multi-million dollar studios and the video quality that comes with it. What’s gained: Efficiency and intimacy. Live shots from home are candid and relatable, showing viewers that their favorite TV personalities are stuck in the same stay-at-home boat.

Broadcasting live…from the basementSavannah Guthrie and Al Roker of NBC’s “Today” show have been at home since last week. Part of Guthrie’s basement has been converted into a studio. She posted a photo from her director’s chair to Instagram and asked, “Is there a statute of limitations on how many days in a row you can wear the same sweatpants?”

Some of the changes have happened gradually, as with the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends,” which was slow to recognize the severity of the crisis. The co-hosts typically gather on a couch to deliver right-wing news and commentary, but last week, as social distancing became the norm, they were stationed in different corners of the studio. 

This week, they are working remotely “in locations closer to our homes,” co-host Steve Doocy said on the air.

Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning America” said Tuesday that she would start broadcasting from home on Wednesday, as well. “It is hard to leave because you want the normalcy. You want it not just for yourself but for our viewers,” she said on Tuesday’s “GMA.” But Roberts has underlying medical conditions, including a rare blood disorder, so her doctor has recommended that she remain home.

Remote shows have quickly become normal all across TV. CNN’s Anderson Cooper anchored “AC360” from his home last Friday after a person on his show’s team fell ill. On Monday, he updated viewers: “My staff is all still working from home. Tonight, I’m in a remote studio with robotic cameras. I’m not in contact with anyone else.” Cooper has had no symptoms of the virus. Even for the programs that still have anchors working from their usual studios, television networks have drastically cut back staffing levels for control rooms and other key functions.

On Sunday night CNN boss Jeff Zucker, the chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, wrote in a memo that “more than 90 percent of our global staff is now working from home. “But there are still members of the team in the field and in our offices because what we are doing has been deemed essential, and I want to express my thanks to them, as well,” Zucker wrote.

At NBC News, President Noah Oppenheim told staffers Monday that “over 90%” of staff “based at 30 Rock are now working remotely.” “Most of our anchors, correspondents and contributors now also have at-home studios,” Oppenheim wrote in an internal memo. “And in many of our control rooms, as few as three people — all sitting at least 6 feet apart — are getting our shows on the air.”

At the PBS “NewsHour” over the weekend, Saturday and Sunday’s broadcasts were assembled entirely remotely — “meaning no control room, no studio,” anchor Hari Sreenivasan told CNN. Sreenivasan filmed from his apartment, reporters worked from theirs, and editors and producers all worked from their own homes. Sreenivasan said he used Zoom videoconferencing to record his reports.

He shared this technique with the audience “by turning the set ‘on’ in front of them,” he pointed out. These types of broadcasts are made possible by state-of-the-art streaming tech, but some of the workarounds are pretty simple. Sreenivasan ran a TelePrompTer by scrolling on a wireless mouse.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Dana Bash interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the air from a Cisco Webex videoconferencing desk device in her home. From daytime to late night The abundance-of-caution approach has extended to talk shows and late-night comedy hours. “Live with Kelly and Ryan” resumed on Monday with both Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest joining via Skype. Seacrest used a stack of books to prop up an iPad and a laptop computer for the show. When guest Jerry O’Connell joined “Live” on Tuesday and suffered from a poor connection, he jokingly tweeted, “Sorry about my poor internet. My kids sucking it all up with their TikTok and we have a limited data plan.”

Technical glitches do crop up from time to time — but it’s remarkable how stable the TV coverage has been, all things considered. Engineers have been working long hours to keep things running.

To name just one example, CBS News moved out of its main New York offices last week following an outbreak of coronavirus, and “CBS This Morning” has emanated from “The Late Show” stage a few blocks away at the Ed Sullivan Theater ever since. “The Late Show” and other late-night shows have also been producing rough-around-the-edges monologues and other comedy from hosts’ homes.

“The Daily Show” has been renamed “The Daily Social Distancing Show” while Trevor Noah hosts from his Manhattan apartment. On Tuesday, HBO said that “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” would return on Sunday with a program from Oliver’s residence.

Digital news outlets have also transitioned to remote working models. Politico told staffers on Tuesday that work-from-home will continue through May 4. Magazines like The New Yorker have been successfully published from home for the first time ever. (The lone exception is the physical printing process.)

Will Welch, the editor of GQ, told CNN that “unprecedented times call for unprecedented ideas.” “On one hand we can’t do traditional photo shoots or in-person reporting during social distancing and self-quarantine,” he said. “On the other, there is so much powerful technology at our disposal that we get to harness in new ways. So we’re doing meetings on Zoom, asking subjects to photograph themselves, going live on Instagram, asking artists and other creative people in our community to make stuff for us, and doing our reporting over the phone.”

Most importantly, he said, he and his colleagues “are just grateful we can still get up in the morning and do the work, no matter how different or how stressful the circumstances. It’s a huge privilege in a moment when so many people cannot go do their jobs.”

For the full story with photos you can go here.

Feature Story

James Wagner
Altagracia Alvino prepared a stewed goat dish while her grandson, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., slept. CreditCreditTara Walton for The New York Times

Abuela, Chef, Boss: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s Grandmother Feeds the Majors

For about two decades, Altagracia Alvino has lived with and cooked for her baseball-playing offspring — as well as their teammates and opponents.

By James Wagner

August 25, 2019

Leer en español

TORONTO — The brown sugar bubbled in the pan. The marinated goat meat sizzled when added. Spoonfuls of olives and capers were heaped into the mixture. Then Altagracia Alvino, who can make this dish with her eyes closed, froze.

“Did I put spice in here?” she whispered to herself in Spanish.

Alvino, 66, was careful to make as little noise as possible because it was 7:22 a.m., and her husband and her 20-year-old grandson, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., one of baseball’s brightest young stars, were asleep in their rooms of the family’s Toronto apartment. The familiar scent of cooking meat was unavoidable, though. Read More

Easy to Make Mistakes, So Verify

The Parkland shooting shows us how easily you can make a mistake and report things that are untrue in the rush to get a story out quickly.

Two things stand out:

  1. The false report that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 and wounded 14 others at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, was connected to a white supremacist group.
  2. There have been 18 school shootings since January 1st, 2018.

Let’s tackle the first false report.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that follows hate groups, wrote on its blog the day after the shooting that Cruz was associated with a Jacksonville, Florida, white supremacist group, Republic of Florida (ROF). The ADL had previously been contacted by someone who described himself as the leader of the group.

The ADL told Politico it picked up the information on 4chan, a bulletin board where self-described ROF members claimed Cruz was one of them.  News organizations picked the story up and people on 4chan kept it going. One of the users described it as “prime trolling opportunity,” and the discussions involved fooling reporters and feeding them the story that Cruz was with ROF.

The same kinds of conversations between these trolls about the false connection showed up on Discord, a gamers’ app that attracts neo-Nazis, about a concerted effort to fool reporters.

Politico posted these exchanges from the bulletin boards:

“On the Discord chat, a user called Curbstomp suggested sharing generic photos of ROF and claiming they depicted Cruz.

“I have an idea . . . We can just take a pic of masked ROF members and claim one of them is Cruz,” Curbstomp wrote.

Members of the Discord chat swapped potential photos.

Others joined the chorus on 4chan, interspersing jokes with purported confirmations.

“I can confirm this guy was trying to enact a race war and got kicked out of ROF,” wrote another poster.”

Reporters from AP and ABC contacted the trolls and supposed members of the group and went with the story.

But shortly after the first report, on Thursday, February 15, 2018, the Broward County sheriff said it wasn’t true.

How do you verify a claim that someone is in a hate group?

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups. Contact them and ask.

The FBI monitors hate crimes. Some local law enforcement agencies do too. Contact them and ask.

ProPublica, a non-profit news organization, began Documenting Hate, a project that collects data from journalists from more than 130 news organizations as well as independent journalists, local law enforcement, community groups and civil rights groups to try to get a clear picture of what is happening in America

The Anti-Defamation League has been a reliable source in the past.

The bottom line is that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter are good sources for leads and ways to connect with people. But you have to be extremely careful, because we know that people in chat rooms, on social media, and trolls are determined to spread false information and use reporters to to do it.  Take your time. Report only what you know.



2. Mistaken numbers about school shootings.

PolitiFact traced the first error to surface to a tweet from ABC reporter Jeff Greenfield.

In the rest of the world, there have been 18 school shootings in the last twenty years. In the U.S., there have been 18 school shootings since January 1.

It picked up 130,000 likes on Twitter.

Greenfield apparently picked up the statistic from Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The number of 18 does not mean that there were 18 incidents of someone going into a school and shooting students, as Cruz allegedly did.

Instead the number includes a man committing suicide in a school parking lot and a student unintentionally firing an instructor’s gun. You can see the full list here.

If we use careful language, we would not classify many as school shootings.

Checking Facts:

PolitiFact checks claims of politicians, reporters and others in the news.

FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center

Snopes.org was founded in 1994 to research urban legends. It has become a go-to source for checking out internet rumors.

Open Secrets.org, part of The Center for Responsive Politics, follows political contributions and money spent on lobbying. It followed where the National Rifle Association (NRA)  money went in the 2016 election.


Sunlight Foundation shines the light on government and government officials using public records, technology and information from civic groups and journalists,

See Through New York, a project of the Empire Center, shows you salaries of every public employee in New York State as well as pension information.