Asian Americans are among the doctors and nurses saving our lives.
Yet they also endure the worst abuse.
Texas is the No. 3 state for hate incidents against Asian Americans, according to recent numbers from a California-based advocacy council.
A recent attack on a Burmese family in Midland is being investigated as a hate crime.
And the president of the Texas Medical Association has issued a strong letter warning against discrimination toward Asian and Asian American professionals.
“Fear, misinformation, and confusion are widespread,” Dr. David Fleeger of Austin wrote, calling for using “science and reason to guide us.”
Texas can do better.
“I’ve never seen the Asian American community this upset,” said state Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat who is a former county prosecutor.
“There’s active discrimination, and then there’s the fear … the community doesn’t know where the next attack is coming from.”
At a time when Texas’ 1.5 million Asian Americans are the state’s fastest-growing minority, hate attacks and “coronavirus discrimination” have become so widespread that a new civil-rights advocacy campaign cataloged more than 50 Texas incidents in its first two weeks.
An Asian-owned taqueria in Richardson, OMG Tacos, banned customers for life for asking Asian or Hispanic workers, “Do you have coronavirus?” One customer said he asked “because you work for Asian people.”
Fleeger, the medical association’s president, wrote in an online warning that Asian American doctors should report offenders to hospitals and, if it’s a fellow doctor, the medical society.
In a phone interview, Fleeger said he learned of incidents where doctors faced greater scrutiny or slurs because of their race. They were even asked whether they’d been to China or exposed to coronavirus.
“There was no more reason to ask them than to ask you or me,” Fleeger said.
“It was because they were Asian. … Asia is a broad swath of the planet. You can’t make generalizations.”
TMA doctors should not use “Chinese” or “Wuhan” as the name of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or COVID-19 disease, Fleeger said.
“We use the name, not where it started — epidemics have started all over the world,” he said.
The hurt feelings over the name were renewed this week when local Republican state Reps. Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Mike Lang of Granbury, Tony Tinderholt of Arlington and Bill Zedler of Arlington signed a Freedom Caucus letter making not one but five references to the “Wuhan virus.”
Tinderholt and Zedler represent part of Arlington’s large Asian American community.
Wu said, “The Freedom Caucus people are the worst of the worst.”
Asian leaders in both parties have asked officials to stop using stereotypes that might lead to Asian-bashing, he said.
“There are ways to discuss China’s role and China’s faults without creating danger for the Asian Americans who are trying to work essential jobs and care for families,” he said.
Like Bawi Cung. 34, a father of three in Midland.
He and his family were attacked March 14 in a Sam’s Club
Cung, a Burmese immigrant, and two of his children were stabbed. According to an FBI alert on anti-Asian hate crimes, accused attacker Jose Gomez III “thought the family was Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
Cung started as a Wal-Mart stockroom worker and is becoming a commercial truck driver, according to Midland construction executive Reagan Hignojos. Hignojos used Facebook to rally $20,000 in gifts to help the family.
According to a column by Hignojos in the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Cung said he came to the U.S. from Burma for freedom and safety:
“He never thought this would happen in America,” Hignojos wrote.