Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan lawmakers call out xenophobic reactions to coronavirus

By: - March 2, 2020 6:49 pm

Sen. Stephanie Chang (left) and Rep. Padma Kuppa (right)

In the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reaching national public health emergency status, two Democratic Michigan lawmakers are condemning heightened hostility and racist sentiments toward people of Asian descent as a reaction to the illness.

The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and has so far affected at least 89,000 people and killed more than 3,000. Since it started making global headlines, there has been an uptick of xenophobia and hostility toward Asian people.

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and state Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) released a joint statement Friday condemning the racialization of the illness. 

“As proud Asian Americans, we strongly condemn the growing racist sentiment and discriminatory treatment that Asian American/Pacific Islanders are being subjected to in our country in the midst of the coronavirus situation,” they wrote.

Chang and Kuppa go on to applaud Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to put protective measures in place in the event that coronavirus crops up in Michigan, but say that this has not prevented “attacks in public spaces, bias incidents, xenophobic rhetoric, and refusing people business due to East Asian appearance.”

“… A public health concern should not become a xenophobia concern. The attacks on Asian Americans that have been happening around the country are wrong and need to stop. We must not succumb to conspiracy theories and misinformation. It is our shared responsibility to recognize the roles we play in dispelling bias and slander, and instead dedicate our energy to amplifying scientific facts and the truth,” they continued.

Chang, a second-generation Taiwanese American, became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Michigan Legislature when she took office in 2014. Kuppa is the first Indian immigrant elected to the state Legislature. 

Both belong to the Michigan Asian Pacific American Legislative Caucus, which Chang co-founded and Kuppa co-chairs.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.