Aruna Miller is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She represents District 15 in Montgomery County, Maryland. In this interview with Overachiever Magazine, she talks about sexism in the workplace, discarding labels, and coming from a place of love.

The Coronavirus is No Excuse to be Racist

As COVID-19 continues to spread, so does the panic surrounding it. Along with the panic comes misconceptions, which unfortunately have evolved into xenophobia against Asians. In December 2019, the virus appeared in Wuhan, China and since then, Chinese people, as well as people from other East Asian groups, have become the scapegoat for the pandemic. This sentiment has caused anti-Asian discrimination and many Asian Americans to be subjugated by racist attacks. 

From local restaurants to big chains, Chinese businesses throughout the U.S. have experienced alarming drops in sales due to fears of contracting the deadly disease. Quickly, an international boba chain that has filled a niche for Asian Americans since the early 2000s, announced on April 8 in a Facebook post that it will permanently close 50 locations in the U.S. In an Instagram post, Boba Guys, a popular bubble tea chain founded in San Francisco, announced their temporary closure of all their stores, along with the uncertainty as to whether they will be able to reopen stores following the pandemic.  

Reports of racist attacks against Asians in the U.S. have skyrocketed amid the coronavirus outbreak. The online reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate has reported over 1,100 incident reports of verbal harassment, shunning and physical assault within two weeks since its inception on March 18. One of the latest cases happened on March 28 in which a 51-year-old Asian woman was injured in a hate crime attack on a city bus in the Bronx by three teenage girls, with one alleging yelling at the woman: “You caused the coronavirus b***h!” 

Asian people who had no connection to the coronavirus — having not traveled outside the country nor showed any symptoms — were attacked solely because of their appearance and ethnicity as if they were genetic carriers of the disease, leading many Asian Americans to not only be afraid of their health, but also being themselves. 

Historically, pandemics have fueled xenophobia with people scapegoating entire groups of people for the disease. During the early 20th century, the influenza flu, which infected 500 million people, was known throughout the world as the ‘Spanish flu,” while in Spain, it was referred to as the “French flu.” Tuberculosis was associated with Jewish people, SARS with Chinese people, and Ebola with Africans. And now, COVID-19 is associated with the Chinese, with President Trump having repeatedly called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.”

However, to call this behavior “common reactions,” as did the University Health Services Tang Center in an Instagram post which was later taken down amid backlash, is dangerous. Although associating a disease with a specific group of people and segregating members of this group may sound like a protective measure, it distracts from the real threat as it directs attention towards a group of people, rather than the virus itself. Just as it requires a collective effort to protect public health, it is more important than ever to promote inclusion and fight the virus as a unified whole. 

Although COVID-19 originated in China, the disease itself doesn’t discriminate the way people do. It is true that racist scapegoating is an unfortunate echo of the past, but it doesn’t have to be this way. To fight against misconceptions and prejudice, it is important for people to have accurate information on how to keep themselves and their communities safe, such as washing hands for 20 seconds and social distancing. By doing so, we can fight the infection, without spreading another one. 

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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