Xenophobia and racism to the Asian community have increased massively since the start of the pandemic, causing misleading accusations to have triggered despicable actions that exceed humanity.
In a world that is filled with so many beautiful cultures and races, it is devastating that some are overlooked and not accepted. Change is a basic principle that was supposed to happen centuries ago, now it is mandatory for it to be a lifestyle - normalized throughout the whole circumference of the planet. Every race is a piece of art, a formidable museum that will allow entrances once the visitors are willing to be open-minded.
One of the movements that act against hate crimes in a very creative and successful way is HateIsAVirus, an organization established in the US. They focus on spreading awareness, educating the community on how to respond to hate crimes, and raising $1 million to small businesses that were affected by COVID-19. They believe in unity, respect, and compassion for all the communities that exist, actively contributing when others also face discrimination as injustice is no longer tolerable.
Why have you chosen masks as your symbol?
At the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., our communities looked at people wearing masks with fear and an excuse for their hate rhetoric and crimes. In reality, wearing masks showed that we were in fact showing love - protecting both ourselves, but more importantly, those around us.
We chose to reclaim what masks represented to people. Through pushing our message with the masks, we aimed to normalize wearing masks during this pandemic to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and relay that we’re not the virus, we’re part of the solution.
What is the main goal of this movement? Is it only awareness or to take action as well?
We created #HATEISAVIRUS with three primary campaign goals. First, to spread awareness of hate and racism against the Asian American community, not just within our own circles, but to communities beyond. Second, to educate and equip our community with tactical strategies on how to respond to the hate and racism that they witness and/or experience. Lastly, to raise $1 million in funding for small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus and other causes tackling these issues.
We wanted to raise $1M to provide relief to small businesses because they have been one of the groups that have been hit the hardest due to racism and xenophobia. In fact, Asian-led small businesses have reported up to a 70% drop in business months even before the shelter-in-place order was actually enacted.
As part of our goal to raise $1M to provide relief to small businesses, we are hosting a 4-part rally and event series where we’ll raise awareness of these issues and fundraise.
How will you appeal to the majority of people who haven’t heard about the presence of racism on social media or on the news amid the COVID-19 situation?
We are partnering with community advocates and leaders around the nation to help amplify our message and hit mainstream media. We are also equipping our community with educational materials that help them have these conversations with their peers as well, such as these (infographic 1 and infographic 2). These tips are meant to help people address racists comments they see online and offline as well as how to hold these conversations in the first place.
What is your reaction to people buying equipment for self-defense as a response to hostile comments on social media?
We were a bit saddened by this news, most of our friends and family felt that the biggest threat to them wasn’t the COVID-19 but the hate and xenophobia that was raging on against the Asian community. Instead of being a bystander, our campaign aims to solve the inherent danger we felt by rallying behind a cause where we knew we can at least be the voice of our community and do our best to address the anxiety we felt within the Asian communities.
How will you utilize your plan to discourage fear and the escalation of violence?
Our campaign’s theme has always been centered around education, information, and unity. We draw inspiration from civil rights activism that came before us. That taught us the importance of taking a firm, effective nonviolent approach. We believe that virtual rallies, important discussions and proper education is going to help us combat racism and xenophobia without the need of violence.
Do you see this as a primarily USA issue? Should the rest of the world also be concerned?
Unfortunately, this situation isn’t unique to just the USA, it’s also a factor worldwide. We have seen crimes against Asians all over the world. This is more crucial than ever for the Asian community to stick together and support each other during these times of crisis.
What collaborations has HateIsAVirus made to support American Asian small businesses?
Since launching in April 2020, we have seen over 5 million impressions from organic influencer posting and community partnerships, including Asian Hustle Network & Admerasia, NextShark, Twitter ERG, Act ToChange and many more. We all have one goal; which is to raise awareness and stop xenophobia and racism against Asian Americans, while raising $1Million to support small Asian-owned businesses who are struggling to keep afloat due to such misinformation. With our partnership with Admerasia at (http://racismiscontagious.com/), we are collecting more stories on the racism and hate that our community has been experiencing and to visualize the incidents on a map.
Where are the key target locations and how do you qualify for this support?
Our social media movement has allowed us to reach a global audience (organically). Our top countries (which seem to align with the reported hate crimes) are the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Our key target US cities in which we are supporting local businesses include Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. In our 4 part series, The $1M we raise as part of our events will go directly towards a relief fund used to support small Asian-led businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. We are partnering with groups like Frontline Foods and Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund to find Asian-led businesses to support.
If you succeed, are you thinking of going wider to support people internationally such as the struggling families in Asia?
The $1M small business relief fund will be focused on the small businesses in the U.S. for now as there are many more businesses who are in need post COVID-19 than we can support.
However, we will do what we can as a community partner to shed light on issues that are happening internationally, especially in regards to any hate crimes and racism abroad. For instance, we’ve been seeing reports of increased attacks against Asian Americans in Canada and Australia as well. We will amplify the work of community partners who are addressing these challenges as well.
What are the possible actions that you advise to prevent future racist comments?
This will require a community effort - we need to stand together and be there for each other.
One way is to continue raising awareness of these issues. We can shed light on these issues by having these discussions, calling out racist behaviors, and doing what we can to educate our community on why these hateful comments and behaviors are not going to be tolerated.
Another way is to stand in solidarity not just with other Asian Americans, but communities beyond as well. Racism continues to be a rampant issue on a daily basis across communities (e.g. the hate the Muslim community experienced post 9/11 and the black community with #BlackLivesMatter, #RunWithAhmaud, and more).
Lastly, we can continue to stay educated on how to best take action against hate and racism. #HATEISAVIRUS publishes a weekly newsletter with tips that comes out every Thursday, and Hollaback! Is another great organization that provides additional resources.
Is this movement only going to be existent during the pandemic or after as well?
As an organization, we decided that this movement will continue on after this pandemic. The primary focus of the campaign this year will be centered on the COVID-19 situation. After the COVID-19 we hope to address all the other hate, racism, and xenophobia that other communities outside the Asian community that will and might face after this pandemic is over.
Would you consider yourself as a unique single-issue movement, or similar to other movements? If so, is there an opportunity for collaboration with other groups, such as WashTheHate and Hope Not Hate?
We wouldn’t consider ourselves a single-issue movement. Now is the time for us to find similarities among like-minded organizations to work together and collaborate to effectively deal with the racism and xenophobia caused by the COVID-19 situation. This is not a competition, this is a social matter that needs to be resolved. We have had opportunities to work with WashTheHate and will always be open to collaborating with other movements because our goal is to make a difference.
In your opinion, do you think life will ever be the same post COVID-19?
In terms of #HATEISAVIRUS, unfortunately, we foresee that the racism and hate against Asian Americans will continue to be prevalent for a while, even in the aftermath of COVID-19. For as long as these issues persist, #HATEISAVIRUS will be here to raise awareness and reinforce our message that our community will not stand back and tolerate these injustices. And we hope to spread this message by not only mobilizing our own Asian American community, but also encouraging communities beyond to stand in solidarity with us.
With that said, even our day to day lives (in my opinion) post COVID-19 will not go back to the way it used to be. Only time will tell, but I hope that we will come out of this pandemic with more compassion, kindness, and love for one another.