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How Trump’s Xenophobic Rhetoric Contributed to Asian American Hate

Former President Donald Trump won the election of 2016, making him the chief executive during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This meant that Trump had the vital responsibility of guiding the country through this global crisis in a way that kept all Americans safe and provided them with a sense of unity — something he ultimately failed to do.       

The first cases of the coronavirus broke out on US soil in January 2020, and Trump made a public address stating everything was under control, which we know now is clearly far from the truth. Trump continued to spread misinformation about the virus which largely hurt the American people.       

In February, Trump adopted a new strategy — utilizing China as a scapegoat for the virus. In March 2020 Trump first tweeted the phrase “Chinese Virus.” Since that very first tweet, racist anti-Asian hashtags spiked on Twitter.        

Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric continued as he began using the phrase “kung flu virus” along with many other derogatory terms. A new study by the Anti-Defamation League showed a direct link between Trump’s Twitter presence and Asian American hate. The study showed an “85% increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter” after Trump got COVID-19. Trump’s discourse has not only caused an increase in online attacks for the Asian American community but also increased the number of hate crimes committed against the community.      

In the face of the Atlanta Shooting, in which eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there is no doubt that Trump’s words have led to elevated threats against Asian Americans.     

 “I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration — calling COVID the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things — led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair… [and] has elevated threats against Asian Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country,” Psaki said during a press briefing at the White House.   

The Asian American community is currently the victim of targeted hate caused by the spread of misinformation and hate speech. It is our job as Americans to see past the hatred Trump seeded in this country and unite with the Asian American community in this time, showing them solidarity and kindness.    

Sabrina Ortiz

Chapel Hill '22

Sabrina is studying journalism in hopes of pursuing a career in reporting. In her free time, you can find her reading, rewatching Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time, or cuddling with her dog. She hopes to use this platform to connect with people through her stories.
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