When the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 30 unanimously approved a resolution lambasting violence and dangerous rhetoric escalating in recent weeks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it sent a powerful message in bipartisan fashion – and that’s all too uncommon these days.
The author of House Resolution 1015 is Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-OKC. Munson, the first Asian American woman elected to the Legislature, pointed out racism against AAPI people is not new, but it does seem to be growing in intensity – unquestionably, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent attacks in Georgia are a stark example, but there are more. And oftentimes, shootings or other violent acts against AAIP people – and others – are preceded by verbal attacks.
Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, described this as “incendiary rhetoric, xenophobic resentment, and scapegoating.” He could have gone further. There’s little doubt that one of the catalysts for acting out on personal bigotries stems from the drumbeat label of “Chinese virus” for COVID-19 from certain of the nation’s leaders. Even though people may not realize it, they have come to “blame” Asian people – by virtue of their physical characteristics – for this pandemic that has taken more than 555,000 lives in this country alone, simply because of a grossly unfair and inaccurate label.
Any scientific resource to be found online and elsewhere will explain the nature of viruses, and the typical pattern of how they circumnavigate the globe. Many do start in China or Africa, but it has to do with rapid urbanization in these areas and their population density. With humans coming into contact more often with animals that carry viruses, the “jump” to humans is all but inevitable. Deforestation, the killing off of predators, and sheer proximity are also factors.
It’s thought by many experts that COVID-19 – or rather, SARS-CoV-2 – originated with a bat, but it’s not clear whether it jumped directly to humans, or came through an animal, such as a horse eating grass beneath trees where bats were feeding. The process is complicated and scientists have a long way to go before reaching definitive conclusions, but blaming people of Asian heritage for the ultimate arrival of the virus in the U.S. is outrageous. The bug, after all, was only a plane flight away, and with global travel as it is today, viruses are going to go with people more efficiently than ever before.
Pae insists that Oklahomans “acknowledge and condemn racist rhetoric and actions,” and to avoid the “us-versus-them factionalism” that has become so common in this era. He also stressed – as other sages are trying to do – that “more empathy leads to a better society.” Though it wasn’t necessarily the point with this resolution, it should go without saying that anti-racist campaigns to protect the dignity of Black, Indigenous and other Oklahomans – often under the blanket of “minorities” and who have been marginalized since time out of mind – should also be zealously pursued.
The country is going through a painful metamorphosis, and all any of us can do is pledge to fall on the side of what’s moral and right. That means acknowledging the dignity of every human, with no regard to skin color, ethnic background, or faith.