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Celebrities Speak Out Against Use of ‘Chinese Virus’

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Actor and activist George Takei is among the Asian American public figures condemning the use of the terms “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” to refer to the coronavirus or COVID-19 by President Trump and other government officials.

George Takei and Daniel Dae Kim recently attended the opening of the exhibition “Transcendients” at the Japanese American National Museum, where they were among the community heroes recognized in the artwork. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

A Washington Post photo of Trump’s notes from his March 19 briefing shows that he had crossed out the word “corona” and replaced it with “Chinese.”

In an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, Takei explained, “His doing that sends a cold chill throughout the Asian American community because he’s sending a signal to the haters in his constituency, and there are plenty of them …

“Already in a subway station in New York, a Chinese American woman was assaulted and beaten, and this was caught on film, on a phone. And in the streets of San Francisco, an Asian woman was yelled at and spat at, and she had to flee into a store to get away from this man. So we are chilled by the constant use by the president and his administration of that term.

“We have a long history of anti-Asian hatred in this country. As far back as the 1870s, 20 Chinese men were lynched in the central plaza of Los Angeles because a white woman claimed that she was assaulted by a Chinese man …

“In the 1940s, we Japanese Americans were incarcerated, I was five years old at the time, with no due process, no charges, no trial. We were categorized as enemy alien. I was neither. I was a 5-year-old kid and I was an American citizen. My mother was born in Sacramento, my father was a San Franciscan, and yet we were incarcerated.

“Then in 1982 … Detroit had high unemployment because of the advent of Japanese automobiles. This Chinese American young man, Vincent Chin, was in a bar celebrating his bachelor party and they were accosted by two unemployed auto workers. They had an altercation, they left the bar, and they were followed out by the same two guys, now armed with a baseball bat, and he was beaten to death. When the murderers were tried, the judge … gave one of them probation and a $3,000 fine …

“So we have this history. We want that term eliminated completely, but that sycophant, [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, used it publicly as well. So we want Trump not to be a participant in that coronavirus task force press conference. He should stay away and let the real experts participate.”

In a Facebook post, Takei added, “And to those who say he’s just stating the ‘truth’ with the moniker ‘Chinese virus,’ ask yourself why he’s insisting on using that name, rather than coronavirus or COVID-19 like the rest of the world.”

Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Good Doctor”) announced March 19 that he has tested positive for the virus. In a video posted to his Instagram, he said that he had been filming the series “New Amsterdam” in New York City, playing a doctor responding to a flue pandemic. He said he began feeling ill while flying back home to Hawaii and went to a drive-through testing facility in Honolulu.

Kim said that although he has experienced symptoms, he has not needed to go to the hospital and has begun to feel better. His family tested negative for the virus.

The actor spoke out against the rising xenophobia connected with the disease. “Please, please stop the prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people. Randomly beating elderly, sometimes homeless Asian Americans is cowardly, heartbreaking and it’s inexcusable.”

He added, “Yes, I’m Asian. And yes, I have coronavirus. But I did not get it from China, I got it in America. In New York City. Despite what certain political leaders want to call it, I don’t consider the place where it’s from as important as the people who are sick and dying. If I did, I would call this thing the ‘New York virus,’ but that would be silly, right?”

Lana Condor

Vietnamese American actress Lana Condor (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “Deadly Class”) addressed Trump via Twitter on March 18: “You have no idea the ramifications your racist words and actions have on the Asian American community. Yu simply cannot even fathom the danger you are putting our community in.

“How dare you. You should be ashamed of yourself. You call yourself a leader? You know what leaders do? They LEAD by setting good examples and ACTION. Something we’ve yet to see you do.

“You need to take notes on Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, who is ACTUALLY leading — by donating tests and millions of masks to AMERICA, bc you haven’t.

“Please. Be better. So we aren’t afraid to leave our house in fear someone will verbally or physically aubse us because of your xenophobia.”

Kyung Lah

CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah tweeted on March 20, “A hateful guy, while I was waiting to do a live shot, said some racist shit to me about being Chinese. a) I’m not Chinese, I’m Korean American (accuracy w/your racism pls) and b) wtf. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard this to my face, America.”

During a report on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration of a statewide emergency, Lah discussed the incident on the air with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who said, “We’ve been hearing about all these horrific instances of anti-Asian discrimination, racism and xenophobia because of the coronavirus because it originated in China. You and I talked about this. You said it was okay for me to bring it up. You had an unsettling encounter today while out reporting on this story.”

“I think its been since elementary school, I haven’t heard it directly to my face,” said Lah. “It’s something you see on social media frequently, especially if you’re an Asian American reporter. We were standing there preparing for a live shot this morning just hours ago, and a man walked up using a racial slur. I was so surprised, so taken aback that I asked him to repeat it because I couldn’t believe it.

“So it is something that’s happening and what I find most surprising is that it’s happening in front of our faces, directly at people. That is something that I have not experienced in a very long time.”

“I’m so sorry you experienced that,” Tapper responded. “I would just like to note that if you are stupid and racist enough to be holding random individuals of Asian descent responsible for a pandemic, you should be self-quarantining from society.”

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