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Community meeting held to shed light on racism stemming from coronavirus

Allison Vo, left, and Tracy La, both of the Orange County-based activist group VietRISE, host a press conference on coronavirus’ impact on Asian, Latin and immigrant communities.
Allison Vo, left, and Tracy La, both of the Orange County-based activist group VietRISE, host a press conference on coronavirus’ impact on Asian, Latino and immigrant communities.
(Courtesy of VietRISE)

A group of community activists streamed a multicultural press conference to the public on Tuesday to address the local impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Asian, Latino and immigrant communities of Orange County.

Speaking in English, Vietnamese and Spanish, the speakers largely focused on the animus currently directed toward the Asian community due to the coronavirus, specifically highlighting a recent incident where two Garden Grove high school students ridiculed Asian American students.

“We decided to come together from Vietnamese, Latinx and immigrant communities to stand against the increase of racism against Asian communities, and xenophobia against immigrant communities that has risen because of this virus,” said Tracy La, executive director of local activist group VietRISE. “We are also here to share and remind each other of our resiliency and what happens when we take care of one another.”

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Thiery Nguyen, a local Vietnamese high school student, said fear of the virus is being used as justification to attack the Asian community.

“Although I hate the fact I have to say this, the actions of these people have made it clear that someone needs to say it: our race is not a virus,” Nguyen said.

Speakers and organizers of the event included VietRISE, Chispa, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, various local healthcare professionals and teachers and students, and Garden Grove Unified School District Board of trustees President Walter Muneton, among others.

The meeting was held just hours after county officials placed unprecedented restrictions on residents to stop the spread of the virus.

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Due to the restrictions, which initially limited public gatherings to 10 people or less, it was streamed over the Internet and only a select few were allowed into the room. At one point, one of the speakers left the room to conform to the county constraints.

Muneton addressed the Garden Grove incident, when two girls screamed “coronavirus” at Vietnamese students and mocked them while wearing a traditional Asian-style hat, among other racist acts.

“Disruptive and biased hate speech and similar actions have no place in our schools,” Muneton said. “Rest assured that any students engaging in such behaviors including hate speech and biased activities will be facing disciplinary action...We must not use the coronavirus as an excuse to be a bigot or a racist.”

Other speakers addressed the need for the community to come together to support those most vulnerable, which includes seniors and undocumented immigrants.

Allison Vo, youth organizing coordinator for VietRISE, related her parent’s struggle for resources while in refugee camps decades ago with the current crisis, where Americans are emptying out grocery stores leaving some of the most vulnerable unable to attain basic necessities.

“Remember our resiliency, take care of each other and support those who are most impacted,” Vo said. “That means our elderly, workers who cannot work from home, our undocumented neighbors, our community members without shelter. We should share our resources and only buy what we need and save the rest for others.”

Toward the end of the meeting, viewers were directed to a coronavirus resource guide that the community activists and leaders compiled. The guide is available at bit.ly/cv19ocresources.

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