April 6, 2020 — Chicago, IL
American Jewish Committee (AJC) Chicago, together with AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute(API) held an online video conversation about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Chinese American community in Illinois. The featured speakers included Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois State Representative Theresa Mah, Coalition for a Better Chinese-American Community (CBCAC) Executive Director Grace Chan, and United Chinese Americans (UCA) Advisory Board Member Nancy Chen. The moderator was Jeffrey E. Stone, AJC Global Chair of International Relations.
Presentation by AJC of a “Declaration of Support for the Illinois Chinese American Community” preceded the discussion. “We commit to ensuring that all Chinese Americans feel safe and supported, and commit to responding to attacks and stereotyping on social media,” states the AJC declaration.” There is now a battle between the desire to turn inward for self-protection and the desire to support each other, work together, and cooperate across the globe. We will all be better off if we choose the latter.”
The discussion focused on what can be done to confront the uptick in discrimination and harassment of Asian Americans. Senator Durbin said: “Be proud of your family, because that is the strength that each of us brings to this world...Know that there are a lot of people standing behind you today, supporting you...that you may never meet personally, that really do care for you and want you to be part of America’s future.” He added, “Today we stand behind the Chinese and Asian Americans, tomorrow we don’t know where the next challenge may be.”
The CBCAC’s Ms. Chan said “All of these civic engagement activities need to continue, whether it’s in the Chinese or other communities,” and that we need to come together “regardless of what happens with any particular crisis. This may be one issue where Chinese Americans are being scapegoated, but whenever there is a group being scapegoated we need to speak up.”
And State Rep. Mah said, “We need to recognize also that there is a history of racism and racial inequality in this country, so what we’re experiencing is not anything new, but it’s a reminder to all of us that we need to act as allies for one another,” and that “when other communities are experiencing injustice or inequality, we need to speak out as well.”
AJC’s Mr. Stone said, “Yes, we are fighting a deadly, lethal pandemic. It poses enormous health, economic and social risks. But there are also core values at play here that are important to who we are as a country and as a people. AJC is committed to ensuring that we do not lose the democratic values and principles that have made us the greatest country in the world.”
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