Stop the Spread of a Virus of Hate

Our country has spent the last year focused on fighting a virus called COVID-19. But there’s also a destructive virus that has been circulating long before a pandemic changed our lives: hate. 

With nearly 3,000 hate incidents towards Asian Americans in 2020 alone, being vigilant against racism and hate is urgent business. Sadly, Oregon’s history is all too filled with ugly chapters of anti-Asian actions -- the massacre of Chinese gold miners in the 19th century, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War, the bias against southeast Asian refugees who sought a new life in Oregon after the Vietnam War. 

Unfortunately, in Portland a new chapter is being written in this history of hate. Sitting down recently with local Asian-American leaders, I listened in horror as they detailed harassment from passing cars on the road where they jogged to a neighbor pointing a rifle at them for picking up an apple on the ground. Rosaline Hui, owner of Portland Chinese Times, noted she has been accused of “being the virus.” But I think it’s pretty clear that the real virus is hate. And as my longtime friend and CEO of Asian Health & Services Center Holden Leong said, “hate is contagious.”

As the son of Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany, I know full well how destructive hate speech can metastasize into unthinkable violence. Cruel words had dire consequences then. And hateful words carry awful potential now when America has people with the biggest platforms amplifying racist rhetoric.

This hate must stop. And it must stop now.

After meeting with several members of Portland’s Asian community at the beautiful Asian Health & Services Center, I left with a pretty clear to-do list. 

Racialized violence is a public health issue, and to combat it we’re going to need all hands on deck. When it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us, so I’ve been so glad to see many organizations step up to promote anti-racism in the Portland community. That includes the Asian Health & Services Center, which has been providing culturally competent care through the pandemic, resources for survivors of racialized violence, and linguistically specific access to the COVID-19 vaccines.

As long as I am chair of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, I will ensure investment in culturally competent community health. This includes dollars to facilitate vaccine distribution in a culturally competent manner through community-based health organizations like Asian Health & Services.

My to-do list is long, indeed, but I am more than up to the challenge with faith in Oregonians’ ability to care for each other and Fannie Lou Hamer’s immortal words ringing in my ears: “Nobody's free until everybody's free.”

I know we can stop the spread of this virus. Hate has no place here.