In Response to Xenophobia Fueled by Coronavirus Epidemic,
National CAPACD Stands with Chinatown Businesses

National CAPACD is deeply troubled by the rise of hate crimes and rhetoric and economic loss, fueled by xenophobia, in response to the coronavirus epidemic. While the coronavirus epidemic is undeniably a public health concern, it is inaccurate and dangerous to direct fear toward the Asian American community. From physical attacks on young children to discrimination when seeking services, we are once again witnessing the phenomenon of “Yellow Peril,” that traces back to the anti-Asian prejudices and policies of the 19th century. Too often and too easily, Asian Americans have been dehumanized and served as targets of mass hysteria. The harm done to Asian American communities runs far deeper than the transient source of hysteria.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “The Lunar New Year is typically one of the busiest times of year for Asian American businesses. This year, we have heard from many of our members that restaurants and stores in Chinatowns across the country were and continue to be empty – some businesses are being vandalized. These small businesses are the primary source of livelihood for many low-income Asian Americans already struggling to provide for their families. They are also what give many of our cities their unique character that attracts visitors and stimulates economic activity.  Our country is guilty of consistently relying on Asian Americans for their contributions to #OurNeighborhoods and simultaneously avert responsibility to challenge harmful xenophobic rhetoric that impacts their ability to exist in this country without fear or concern.”

Duncan Hwang, Associate Director of Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), stated “With any public health issue, the most important thing to do is follow the advice of trusted public health authorities. Viruses know no nationality, and hate or fear won’t keep us safe. During any uncertain time, it’s critical that the community come together and support each other by getting accurate information and uniting against any form of discrimination.”

Jessie Lee, managing director of Renaissance Economic Development Corporation (REDC) stated “Unfounded fears about coronavirus have hit our immigrant small businesses from Manhattan’s Chinatown to Flushing to Sunset Park, jeopardizing cherished mom-and-pop restaurants and retail stores dependent on tourist dollars. It is important to debunk damaging myths about coronavirus, but it’s even more critical that we back up our words with firm commitments to support struggling businesses through access to affordable capital and in-language, culturally relevant technical assistance. Immigrant small businesses are not only the heart and soul of our communities, but they are the engine driving job creation in neighborhoods across New York City.”

Small businesses in Chinatown and other Asian American Pacific Islander districts are the cultural character and anchor of #OurNeighborhoods. National CAPACD implores our network to support these businesses and dispel misguided fears. We are inspired by local efforts to organize against misinformation and fear mongering, such as the Association of Chinese Americans (ACA) formation of the Covid-19 Relief Community Education Committee in Detroit.

We invite our network to learn more about the impact and needs of AAPI small businesses, particularly those served by our member organizations, in our 2019 report, Small Business, Big Dreams.