By Austin Hoang
Global Lives Project Intern
The highly contagious COVID-19 disease, more colloquially known as coronavirus, is spreading throughout the world like a raging wildfire, leaving behind more than 1.9 million confirmed cases and 119,000 deaths as of April 13, 2020. Not only is the pandemic causing tremendous economic fallout and disrupting our daily lives, it has also led to an increase in acts of racism and xenophobia towards Asian people.
United States President Donald Trump continuously refers to coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”, which has definitely incited many racist attacks. Around the United States, Chinese Americans report being verbally attacked and harassed in public when going about their daily lives. San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department has found more than 1,000 reported cases of xenophobia toward Chinese Americans between January 28 and February 24. Attacks are also becoming physical. In February, an Asian American high school student in San Fernando Valley, CA was physically attacked by bullies from his school. This discrimination is not only limited to Chinese people. Two Hmong men in Indiana report being discriminated against due to coronavirus fears while looking for a hotel room.
In the face of bigotry, racism and hate that fester today like a global virus, the Global Lives Project remains more committed than ever to our mission to cultivate global empathy through cross-cultural understanding. For over 15 years, we’ve had the privilege to work with many strong and kind people from the Asian continent. We hope that their daily lives inspire feelings of compassionate empathy, being moved to help someone’s difficulty, from everyone.
Muttu Kumar is a tour guide and postcard salesman from Hampi, India. Despite leaving school at age 12 due to financial constraints, Muttu speaks Hindi, Kannada, English, and some French — skills central to his work as a tour guide and salesman. Most of his work goes towards supporting himself and his family.
Kai Liu is a convenience store manager and school cafeteria worker from Anren, China. After marrying his wife, Delian, they moved to Anren and had one daughter. Much of Kai’s daily income of $7.50-$13, earned from working two jobs, is dedicated to supporting his daughter and her education.
Rumi Nagashima is a college student and future systems engineer from Tokyo, Japan. Although she lost the use of her right leg during an accident in 2005, Rumi travels long distances in a wheelchair, mentors Girl Scouts, and lobbies for barrier-free cities. Despite having a disability, Rumi continues to adapt to a new lifestyle and serves as an inspiration for all of us.
People like Muttu, Kai, and Rumi remind us that we’re all human and deserve to be treated with empathy. This crisis calls for global unity and empathy, not pinpointing blame and racism.
From the team at Global Lives Project, we wish you safety and wellness during these difficult times. We hope our online moments can serve as a reminder of how interconnected we all are, and offer an opportunity to reflect on the connections you have in your own communities.