The Tompkins County Office of Human Rights condemned the racist acts of “harassment, intimidation, verbal and physical attacks and microaggressions” against Asian and Asian American people in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak in a March 29 statement.
The statement, which was published on TCOHR’s website, was also submitted on behalf of the Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Ithaca Asian American Association.
According to Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, two incidents of anti-Asian bias have been confirmed in Ithaca since the COVID-19 crisis began, and he has heard of two others secondhand.
Myrick pointed to these incidents on March 17 in a video posted to Twitter and Facebook, in which he mentioned “people assaulting verbally, following and harassing Asian and Asian American folks.” In the video, Myrick asked Ithacans to call out instances of racism.
“Those actions are not welcome in our community,” Myrick told The Sun. “We place the utmost seriousness on investigating them. We want to try to nip it in the bud.”
The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor did not respond for comment or information regarding the rate of race-related harassment.
The statement targeted those “who have seized this moment to tear the fabric of human community,” and highlighted the potential of the COVID-19 crisis to incite racist acts.
“This public health emergency, during which we practice social distancing, should not be exploited to foster racist division and ethnic scapegoating that separates us as human beings,” the statement read. “We are all in this together. And we will eventually overcome this together.”
In recent weeks, connections between race and COVID-19 have been extensively underlined.
On Tuesday, the Cornell community received an email from the presidential advisors or diversity and equity and Title IX coordinator Laura Rugless “to call out the increased bias and racism perpetrated against members of our Cornell community who are Asian and Asian-American.”
The email cited Cornell’s Asian & Asian American Center as a resource for Asian and Asian American students.
On its “Reducing Stigma” for COVID-19 webpage, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged the public against feeding into social stigmas that can be brought on by “fear and anxiety,” noting “persons of Asian descent” as a group that is particularly susceptible to be the victim of stigma during this pandemic.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation addressed the prevalence of hate crimes on its COVID-19 information page, assuring that “protecting civil rights and investigating hate crimes remain a high priority for the FBI.”
Between Feb. 9 and March 7, news about COVID-19 and discrimination increased by 50 percent, according to a study conducted by Russell Jeung, Sarah Gowing and Kara Takasaki from the San Francisco State University Asian American Studies.
“The only way out of this crisis that has brought the world to its knees is cooperation,” Myrick said. “So what we need is unity not division; tolerance and acceptance, not hate and prejudice.”
The TCOHR statement asked people to report incidents of discrimination to the Office of Human Rights at 607-277-4080, and to report acts of intimidation, verbal and physical attacks report to law enforcement by calling the 911 Center –– 911 for emergencies, and 273-8000 for non-emergencies. The statement also offered the Ithaca Asian American Association for cultural and social support, which can be reached at [email protected] on the IAAA website.