May 27, 2020, 3:30 AM CDT
By Joe Biden and Sen. Tammy Duckworth
A boy landed in the hospital after being beaten up by his classmates on school grounds. A little girl was pushed off her bike in the middle of a park. A nurse was assaulted on the subway, and another was spit on while delivering medicine to a sick patient. A father was hit over the head by a man swearing at him on the street.
In the past several months, countless Asian Americans have been punched and kicked and threatened, told that they'll be sorry if they don't leave this country — their country. They've been blamed for COVID-19: yelled at by strangers in parking lots, refused service at stores and needlessly, cruelly scapegoated by the most powerful man on the planet, President Donald Trump, who has racialized the pandemic and stoked xenophobia every time he's uttered the term "Chinese virus."
Deflecting blame for his own failure to heed the warnings of experts to prepare for this crisis, Trump has stood in the White House briefing room day after day and pulled from the same cynical playbook he's relied on so many times before, stoking grievances and using the same politics of division that helped him get elected in the first place, this time by casting Asian Americans as the "other." As if they are a deviation from those who are "actually" American. As if they don't truly belong.
The comments Trump has made have ranged from the dangerous to the absurd. But the sentiment behind them has been clear.
So let us be even clearer.
The American story as we know it would not exist without the strength of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a literal sense, Asian Americans helped build and unite this country — laying the railroad tracks, tilling the fields, starting the businesses and picking up the rifles necessary to develop and defend the nation we love.
No insult, no insinuation — even when it comes from the president in the middle of the Rose Garden telling an Asian American reporter to "ask China" — can change the fact that Asian Americans are just as American as anyone else lucky enough to be a daughter or a son of the United States.
Ironically, May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In the face of such intolerance, this month reminds us that it's as important as ever to honor the AAPI community's service to this country — as teachers, doctors, troops, you name it — as well as recognize the consequences of the fear-mongering and outright racism that have been on the rise throughout Trump's presidency.
Because that's the kind of prejudice that led to Japanese Americans' being interned on U.S. soil even as their loved ones fought to defend this nation overseas during World War II. It's a version of what we've seen in debates over everything from segregation to immigration, where those who aren't white are portrayed as if they're somehow dirty or dangerous or, now, contaminated — and then cast off as second-class citizens. In a nation founded on the principle that we're all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.
The United States is great because, by and large, Americans look out for one another and are good to one another. We've witnessed that time and again, and we're seeing it now in the midst of this crisis. Landlords are waiving rent for tenants struggling to get by. Medical students not yet allowed to take care of patients in the ICU are instead taking care of health care workers, offering to look after their kids or do chores. Teachers are driving through their students' neighborhoods to say hello.
Each of those people understands our country better than Trump ever will. They understand that at its best, America is a roughly 3.8 million-square-mile community whose members don't just want to do well for themselves, but to do good for others. No matter the color of their skin.
Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. As much as we all wish and hope, it is clear that Trump will never rise to the awesome responsibility that comes with the title President of the United States.
As our neighbors are spit on and beat up because of the color of their skin, it is more obvious than ever how important it is that we make this the last Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Trump in the White House.