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Santa Clara County Passes Resolution Denouncing Xenophobia and Committing to Combat Hate Crimes

Photo of Santa Clara county line by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr Creative Commons

In response to the rise in reported physical and verbal assaults against Asian American residents since the outbreak of COVID-19, Santa Clara County in California’s Silicon Valley passed a resolution on Tuesday denouncing xenophobia and committing to work with police to combat hate crimes, reports Palo Alto Weekly. 

The resolution was unanimously approved by Santa Clara County supervisors. Board President Cindy Chavez called the resolution “an opportunity for us to show solidarity with our Asian American community partners during COVID-19, when we’ve seen hate rise against the API (Asian Pacific Islander) community.”

According to Palo Alto Weekly, the resolution cautions against referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” a term President Donald Trump has used during press briefings and on social media platforms. This terminology has earned swift backlash from many who insist that bigoted language fuels attacks against Asian American communities.  

“The behavior reported and the volume of incoming hate reports is really unacceptable,” Chavez said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Russell Jeung, chair and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, was another vocal supporter of passing the resolution. 

Jeung launched the STOP AAPI HATE reporting center on March 19 to monitor anti-Asian discrimination. In a message to the Santa Clara County board, Jeung reported that in the first two weeks after launch, his group received 21 incidents from San Jose alone, ranging from verbal to physical assault.

“We’ve found that political rhetoric can incite hatred and violence,” wrote Jeung, who collaborated with the nonprofit Chinese for Affirmative Action and Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council. “This resolution is needed to curtail the inflammatory language used by politicians and media, and to encourage the residents of Santa Clara County to resist hatred and bigotry.”

According to Palo Alto Weekly, Supervisor Joe Simitian shared that observing and discussing the uptick in xenophobia is particularly disheartening given that “millions of people around the Bay Area, around the state and around the country have stepped up in such extraordinary ways during a very difficult time and have really let their best selves step forward.”

“The contrast between that kind of behavior and the behavior that we are calling out here is particularly stark and striking,” Simitian said. “You’d like to think that we wouldn’t even need to say this, but the reports indicate pretty clearly that we do.”

Civic organizations such as Asian Americans for Community Involvement and the San Jose chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League have commended the resolution. Marsha Fong, a board chairwoman at AACI, expressed in a letter that her group is “appalled by the anti-Asian rhetoric and scapegoating of immigrant groups as a result of this crisis.”

“Hate crimes and attacks against the very communities AACI fights to serve and protect are attacks against us all and must be publicly denounced,” Fong wrote.

Dolores Alvarado, CEO of Community Health Partnership, also issued a letter supporting the county’s resolution. 

“Verbal and physical violence against Asians has created an environment of danger and fear among a community that represents nearly 38% of this county’s population,” Alvarado wrote to the board. “Additionally, a large percentage of our county’s health care providers and frontline responders to the COVID pandemic are Asian and creating an unsafe atmosphere among our health care heroes, of all ethnicities, is simply dangerous and unacceptable.”

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