If there’s anything that will shape the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election this November, it’s COVID-19. And there’s no denying the fact that President Trump’s handling of the pandemic has endangered public health and dealt a deadly blow to our national economy. He has dismissed the virus as a hoax, prescribed fake remedies that have endangered thousands of Americans, and put the lives of millions of others in jeopardy by discouraging the use of masks in public places. Leaders ought to lead by example, yet the president has disregarded many of the COVID-19 safety protocols and advisories issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On top of all that, however, Trump has sought to divert responsibility for the virus by calling it the ‘Chinese virus’ and the ‘Kung flu.’
It’s no accident that the president’s remarks against Asians during the pandemic are linked to the rise in anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the U.S. According to a recent Pew Research report, about 3 in 10 Asian adults (31%) have been subject to slurs or jokes since the outbreak began. At the same time, the Center for Public Integrity poll reports that 3 in 5 Asian Americans have witnessed the blaming of Asian Americans for COVID-19. In March, the organization Stop AAPI Hate received over 1,100 reports of verbal and physical harassment against Asian Americans in only two weeks. Even worse, most people in our country were supposed to be staying at home at the time. In California alone, Asian Americans reported 832 incidents of discrimination, 81 assaults, and 64 other civil rights violations in a span of three months.
Moreover, a recent UCLA study shows that Asian American businesses have suffered greatly during COVID-19. By May 2020, the unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 15%, while the jobless rate was 21%; compared to 12% and 16%, respectively, for whites. Nearly 1 in 4 Asian Americans work in service industries. In April, the unemployment rates for Asians were 39% in the Hospitality and Leisure industry, 18% in the Retail sector, and 40% in the category of Other Services. These rates are not only higher than the February report, but they are also expected to continue growing as the economy stalls. Aside from high unemployment rates, more than 2.1 million Asian Americans are working in the frontlines, risking their own lives to fight the pandemic.
If Trump’s America is as cold, spiteful, and unwelcoming to Asian Americans as this year has shown, then Joe Biden’s America offers a different vision.
To resolve the devastating effects of COVID-19, Joe Biden has committed to ensuring that public health decisions are made by public health professionals, undeterred by the anti-intellectual cynics. Biden also plans to immediately restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense — established by the Obama-Biden Administration, only to be eliminated by Trump in 2018.
Biden is committed to curbing the spread of COVID-19 and resuscitating the economy by mounting a decisive public health and economic response to COVID-19, and ensuring the welfare and safety of AAPI workers on the frontline by providing them with necessary protective equipment and boosting their paychecks. Biden believes that COVID-19 treatment should be free to all. Additionally, he is committed to rectifying Trump’s mistakes by reimbursing healthcare providers for treatment costs not covered by insurance as well as uncompensated care burdens (for uninsured and underinsured Americans).
Unlike the current administration’s response to COVID-19, President Obama and Vice President Biden did not blame or mock West Africa for the Ebola outbreak in 2014–2016. The Ebola virus was met with swift action so that it would not evolve into a pandemic. Ironically, Donald Trump blamed then-President Obama for New York’s first Ebola patient, a physician working with the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders. Trump even sent out a tweet demanding the resignation of the president. Under his own standards of competence, he should resign as well.
The U.S. economy is of paramount importance to many Asian Americans, and it is currently in dire straits. We need someone like Joe Biden, who understands and holds the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community dear to his heart. Biden believes that our community is a significant part of the American story. While serving as Vice President, he supported former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which provided health insurance to 2 million AAPIs, among 20 million other Americans. Together, they re-established the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to improve the lives of AAPIs in the United States through federal programs, inter-agency coordination, and outreach to AAPI stakeholders.
Trump’s offensive and racist remarks against hardworking and peace-loving Asian Americans proves that he doesn’t deserve our votes. The Pew Research Center recently declared Asian Americans to be the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. electorate. As an emerging key voting bloc, the votes of young Asian Americans mean more now than they did in 2016. Only one candidate has shown that he cares about our voice. In this year’s election, we must ask ourselves: who do we trust to give our community the respect and dignity we, and everybody, deserve? The answer, I believe, is crystal clear.
Young Asian Americans for Biden (YAAS Biden)
Peter Torres is completing his Ph.D. in Linguistics at UC Davis. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Anthropology from UCLA. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @petertorres