As the Philadelphia region nears the one-year anniversary of the first local COVID-19 cases and shutdowns, and amid escalating anti-Asian racism nationwide, AAJA Philly is encouraging news organizations to cover the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting AAPIs in the same ways that it affects other communities: It is exacerbating food and housing insecurity. It is hurting small businesses and restaurants. It is worsening stress and mental health. It is confusing to navigate frequently changing information about personal protective equipment, testing and vaccinations. Students are struggling with online learning. Workers must choose between risking their health or their jobs. Families have lost loved ones to the virus. And so on.
But AAPI communities often face additional challenges during the pandemic. For example, language barriers make it harder or even impossible for some individuals to access critical information about testing, vaccines, financial relief programs and more, while misinformation spreads across non-English social networks.
And the sharp rise in anti-Asian racism and violence over the past year — including a number of vicious assaults across the country in the last month alone — mean that AAPIs are carrying an added, invisible burden: the fear of being verbally and physically attacked.
Over the past year, politicians and pundits have stoked the flames of racism and xenophobia by repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus” and blaming the pandemic on the stereotypical perception that Asian people like to eat bats. It is unsurprising that, after those in power enable and normalize racist vitriol, such attacks become more brazen.
Yet Asian Americans continue to be underrepresented in news stories about the pandemic. The racist attacks do not occur in a vacuum; rather, they compound the existing stress and trauma that AAPI communities have been experiencing over the past year.
AAJA Philly therefore calls on local news outlets to include, and continue including, AAPI voices and experiences in their coverage. Philadelphia is home to a diverse array of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and members of these communities are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways. We implore media organizations to report on how the pandemic is affecting AAPIs specifically, but also to consistently include AAPI voices in other pandemic coverage.
Our mission is to ensure that AAPIs are accurately and adequately represented in the news. AAJA Philly and the national AAJA organization are always available to help news outlets identify ways to improve coverage of AAPIs.
AAJA Philly board:
Tim Tai, president
Hannah Chinn, secretary
Juliana Reyes, treasurer
Jess Bond, vice president for student engagement
Bethany Ao, national board representative