From the New York Times: “As the coronavirus upends American life, Chinese-Americans face a double threat. Not only are they grappling like everyone else with how to avoid the virus itself, they are also contending with growing racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks. Other Asians-Americans — with families from Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar and other places — are facing threats, too, lumped together with Chinese-Americans by a bigotry that does not know the difference.
“In interviews over the past week, nearly two dozen Asian-Americans across the country said they were afraid — to go grocery shopping, to travel alone on subways or buses, to let their children go outside. Many described being yelled at in public — a sudden spasm of hate that is reminiscent of the kind faced by Muslim-Americans after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”
This deeply saddens me and angers me on so many levels. I am aware that some use a shorthand description of the COVID-19 coronavirus that maps back to where it originally jumped to humanity. And I am aware of all manner of unconfirmed (and I would say irresponsible) conspiracy theories about the origin of that virus.
But to the extent that that shorthand has allowed a misimpression to form–that Asian-Americans living here for years somehow were responsible for this crisis–then that shorthand is now having an effect on real people, equally deserving of love and respect as children of God, and I am certain God is outraged at that. Our own fears, our own uncertainties, do not need to be projected onto anyone other than Jesus, who alone can calm and reassure us. Chinese-Americans are no more responsible for COVID-19 than were Muslim-Americans responsible for 9/11. This is America: we are bigger than that, or at least we should be; regardless, we in the Christian community are certainly called to be bigger than that.
Recently, Virginia’s Bishop, Sharma D. Lewis, posted a message calling for us to “do no harm” in our relations with each other by refraining from using that term. Here at Sydenstricker UMC, we are proud to partner with and host a Korean-language service run by the Virginia Agape International Baptist Church. In normal times, they are diligent in their prayer services each weeknight; they are faithful disciples who meet in small groups for Bible study; and they are passionate worshipers of the Lord. But they’ve recorded only one online service since the pandemic began, and have been largely hidden away. I would be horrified to think that such pettiness and, yes, bigotry would have driven them from worshiping Christ.
It’s Easter tomorrow. As Jesus’ body lies in the tomb, his spirit fights with Satan for dominion over death, destruction, and evil. Let tonight be the night we bury this kind of division among us as well, and let it never rise again.