Council Report: Threat of virus exposes simmering racism and bigotry

| June 3, 2020 | 0 Comments


These past months have been harrowing, as we have worked together as a community to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, it has exposed many pre-existing vulnerabilities in our society — income inequality, educational disparities, weaknesses in our social safety nets — that have exacerbated the gravity of this crisis.

What this virus has also exposed is the racism and bigotry that have long simmered in certain corners of our society, particularly against Asian Americans as well as Asian and Pacific Islanders around the world.

Asian Americans have long been told to simply sit down and be quiet — to put our heads down, work, and try to achieve the American dream through courtesy and hard work. My grandmother, who lived through wars, revolutions, and moving to America from Korea with my family, used to always tell us “don’t act up,” “stay quiet,” because “we are guests in this country.”

My grandmother had her reasons for saying this — she had seen her life upended from conflict, and she simply wanted the best for my siblings and me. She thought that, in America, the best came from staying quiet.

But no amount of staying quiet kept America from interning citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. No amount of hard work saved Korean businesses during the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. And no matter how hard Asian Americans of all backgrounds work, many of them as nurses and doctors currently saving
lives, hate crimes against Asian-Americans are today on the rise.

This racism and rise in hate doesn’t come out of nowhere — and it takes on a different and more emboldened tone when it is propagated by the highest levels of American democracy.

We have heard the President and Congressional leaders use terms like “Wuhan Virus” or “Chinese Virus,” all while a shocking rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans continues across the country. Asian
Americans Advancing Justice, a local advocacy organization, has documented the stories of survivors of these hate crimes, which you can read more about at


Unfortunately, we can also find the impacts of this hate here in Los Angeles. In our own Fourth Council District, there have been deeply disturbing instances of racist, anti-Asian graffiti. Even our diverse City of Angels is not immune from the contagion of bigotry. For years, we have seen a troubling rise in anti-Semitism and crimes against the Jewish community. Hate knows no boundaries, and it is overcome only when we stand together.

Although we have yet to find a cure to racism and hate, we on the City Council are committed to fostering an inclusive and safe Los Angeles for all communities. We know that this is the time for all affinity, identity and religious groups to stand in solidarity and work towards the promise of acceptance.


As a member of the Public Safety Committee, I have championed landmark hate crimes legislation. Alongside regularly tracking and reporting on hate crimes, we are also working on a system to proactively prevent these crimes. I have also launched a hate crime security fund with Council District Four discretionary funds.

Hate must be addressed at every level of government. When our most prominent national leaders propagate absurd and unproven conspiracy theories about the source of the virus, when racism is used as a cheap political token, we must speak out. We must demand better.

That is why I was proud to sponsor a Resolution in the City Council in support of Rep. Grace Meng’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (H.R.6721). This bill, co-sponsored by the Greater Wilshire area’s Congressional
Representative Ted Lieu and others, condemns anti-Asian hate in all its forms. We need the FBI and the Department of Justice to take the issue of hate crimes seriously and protect all our country’s people.

This legislation is something that is much needed, and I believe that, if passed and appropriately implemented, it can begin to peel back at this rise in hate.

Moreover, I believe that legislation can help create an important shift in our cultural discourse and re-emphasize key notions of civility, respect, and acceptance. These are all values to which we collectively aspire as an American people. They are ideals that are enshrined in our founding documents and are re-affirmed by every generation of Americans bending the arc of history toward justice. They are virtues that inform my approach as your Councilmember.

As we work together towards these values, we will undoubtedly hit challenges and meet resistance. We are at one of those challenges. But it is how we react in times of difficulty that shows us who we are. Let Los Angeles show the world that, when hate rears its ugly head, we rise, together, to stand with one another and overcome hate.

By David E. Ryu

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Category: People

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