Through the past COVID-19-haunted year, there have been thousands of attacks on people of Asian heritage in the United States. They have ranged from elderly people being shoved to the ground and seriously injured, to a mother and child being spit on and told to go back to where they came from, to the horrific killings of Asian women at three spas in the Atlanta suburbs.

In many, if not most, of these incidents – with the Atlanta murders being a possible exception – the attacker’s motivation seems to be related to the likely origin of the coronavirus pandemic. If, indeed, the pandemic’s spread began in China’s Hubei Province, that has exactly nothing to do with anyone in this country, no matter what their ethnic background. And, yet, Asians of various backgrounds have been assaulted by racist fools looking for someone to blame.

It is not the first time in this country’s history that Asians have been scapegoated and targeted. In the 19th century, there were violent anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco while, in Seattle, Chinese residents were expelled from the city. At the start of World War II, the property of 120,000 Japanese Americans was confiscated, and they were locked away in crude desert detention camps for the duration of the war.

Times have certainly changed, but not everyone has changed with the times. When, as president, Donald Trump repeatedly rebranded the pandemic as “the Chinese Virus” and “kung flu,” he clearly was placing blame and giving a racial cast to a problem faced by all humanity. Some who heard his words got the message – blame the Chinese – and acted upon that animus in despicable ways.

Yes, it is true that a majority of Americans are repulsed by these racist assaults; as President Joe Biden and many others like to say, “This is not who we are.” Nevertheless, it is who we have been too often in our history and it is exactly who some among us still choose to be.

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