Americans are not a hateful people. In fact, we are more welcoming and tolerant of all peoples than any other country on earth. It is both our moral foundation and our strength.
Americanism is not based on ethnicity or race. It is based on a broadly held belief in a range of governing principles – most notably that all people are equal in our humanity and our inalienable rights. Once we find superiority in race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, we are no longer cultural Americans. We are no longer good Americans no matter how many times we chose to wave or burn the flag.
In a previous commentary, “America ain’t racist.” I noted that billions of times each day black and white citizens work, play and love in harmony with one another. The malignancy of racism exists in the hearts of very few Americans – even if those few create a false impression by garnering unbalanced attention.
Today, the Covid-19 virus has created an opportunity for the ignorant few to emerge from deserved obscurity to direct their venom against those of Asian ancestry – especially the Chinese. It is an abomination and a tragedy.
While it is true that Covid-19 rose out of the city of Wuhan in China – and that the Chinese government lied about the source and seriousness of the disease – resulting in an unnecessarily severe and deadly pandemic. That had nothing to do with the Chinese people – and even less to those we refer to as Chinese Americans.
It is not easy to understand what level of fear-based hatred motivates people to vent against individuals they do not know based on ethnicity. It is irrational. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who contract Covid-19, very few – very few, indeed – will contract it from an Asian. On the other hand, thousands of Asians are risking their lives as doctors, nurses, and staffers in our medical facilities. Others are working on finding a cure – a vaccination.
I have never harbored animosity against anyone based on ethnicity – or anything else. Perhaps, my opinion has been influenced by some personal truths. It was a Chinese American doctor who saved my life and restored my vitality. It was a Muslim cardiologist and an Indian American cardio-surgeon who teamed up to provide me with a life-restoring quintuple bypass more than 21 years ago — after a Caucasian doctor screwed up an angioplasty procedure.
Those who take the liberty to insult or assault Asians on the streets are the true UN-Americans. They may have descended in America for five generations, but they do not embrace Americanism. By their action, they show a contempt for American values as an immigration society. They ignore the contributions their targets make to America – arguably more beneficial than those who harbor racial and ethnic hatred.
While I see xenophobia and racism of all kinds as a marginal issue in America, that does not make it less dangerous. It provokes and ignites animosities that are better left hibernating under the rock. There will always be people motivated by racial hatred. They cannot be obliterated by laws. That only addresses institutionalized racism as we once saw in the old south and of which we still see the remnants in our major cities.
Personal racism recedes only in the face of education, socialization and the overt example of the good people. This is not a time to ostracize and target Asian Americans, but to defend them as fellow citizens under assault by the weak, the unenlightened and the social malcontents, who make false claims of being “good Americans.”
As civil rights leader Whitney Young once noted, we only need a coalition of good against the coalition of evil. That is applicable today as much as ever.
So, there ‘tis.