In OC, Coronavirus-Related Racism Toward Asians Leads To Calls For Action

Two female students at Bolsa Grand High School filmed themselves mocking and harassing Asian students last month. (Screenshot via Facebook account of Teriann Nguyen)

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Over the last few decades, Orange County has become increasingly Asian, with a population that's now the country's third largest.

OC is home to Little Saigon, Little India and — Taiwanese bakery buffs will note — the first U.S. location of 85°C which opened in Irvine.

But in the weeks since the pandemic hit California, anti-Asian incidents have made some in the community feel straight-up unwelcome, and led to a demand for action at the top levels of county government.

More than 200 people signed a letter that was sent to the Orange County Board of Supervisors Wednesday, calling on it to pass a resolution "denouncing the discrimination and hate crimes directed against Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The letter cites two incidents in particular:

  • On March 6, two high schoolers filmed themselves at a school assembly at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove as fellow students walked across the floor in traditional Vietnamese dress.

    "Coronavirus!" one of the two girls shouts, as they both dissolved into uncontrollable laughter.

    In another video shot the same day, one of the girls roughly touched the face of a masked Asian American female student who, seemingly stunned, mumbled, "No, thank you."

    Garden Grove School District officials issued a press release two days later calling the videotaped behavior "unacceptable."

  • In a March 21 incident reported to the Anti-Defamation League, an Asian American family in Huntington Beach had a flier posted on its door that read, "You guys are Chinese Viruses" and "Get out of our country." It was also posted on the family's car.

The letter to the supervisors was spearheaded by the group Asian Americans in Action, and the bipartisan group of signees include top officials from cities like Irvine and Garden Grove as well as Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter and Republican state Assemblyman Steven Choi.

"Pass a resolution without haste in support of the Asian American residents of Orange County and denounce bigotry and acts of hatred," the signatories wrote.

We've reached out to the board of supervisors — three of whom are Asian American — and will update this story with their responses.

The letter comes on the heels of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passing a resolution earlier this month condemning "discrimination, hate crimes, and microaggressions against Asian Americans of all ethnicities."

More than 1,400 anti-Asian incidents have been reported to the Stop AAPI Hate tracker since it was launched last month, with about a third of the anecdotes taking place in California.

In New York City, where some of the most violent acts toward Asians have taken place, the city's Human Rights Commission has created a new unit focused on anti-Asian discrimination.

Here is the letter to the OC supervisors: