This combination photo shows Asian American actors, from left, Tzi Ma, Olivia Cheng, Will Yun Lee, Jeannie Mai and Jon M. Chu. As people across the world shelter in place due to the breakout of COVID-19, some people of Asian descent are worried about what happens when they have to leave the safety of their homes, due to the rise in hate crimes due to the growth of the virus _ which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China. (AP Photo)

This combination photo shows Asian American actors, from left, Tzi Ma, Olivia Cheng, Will Yun Lee, Jeannie Mai and Jon M. Chu. As people across the world shelter in place due to the breakout of COVID-19, some people of Asian descent are worried about what happens when they have to leave the safety of their homes, due to the rise in hate crimes due to the growth of the virus _ which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China. (AP Photo)

Asian celebs work to combat racist attacks amid pandemic

President Donald Trump at times has called COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’

Actress Olivia Cheng was recently volunteering in Vancouver when she says she witnessed a man drive up to an elderly Chinese woman, roll down his window and yell, “This is your fault!” before throwing trash at her.

The incident enraged Cheng, and also served as another reason why she feels it’s so important for celebrities of Asian descent to use their voices and speak up against anti-Asian attacks, which authorities say are increasing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think we can pretend that this isn’t happening,” Cheng, who stars in “The Stand” on CBS All Access, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “For now, it would not be unwise to be a little more careful, to maybe have buddy systems when possible to go get your groceries if you’re not feeling safe.”

The FBI reports there has been an uptick in hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans since the outbreak of COVID-19, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, late last year.

Some people have blamed China and Asians in general for the spread of coronavirus; President Donald Trump at times has called it the “Chinese virus.”

In New York, state Attorney General Letitia James has set up a hotline to report harassment or other targeted crime. Some of those incidents have been filmed and posted online.

“Tigertail” star Tzi Ma says he’s been a victim of such harassment. He was entering a grocery store in Pasadena, California, recently when he was confronted by a man in a car.

“He looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘You should be quarantined’ and took off,” said the veteran actor, who was born in Hong Kong but moved to the United States as a child.

“I got very angry obviously, flush with this kind of cold in your body. And I started screaming at him, but he was way too far away for him to hear me.”

VIDEO: Chinese Canadians warn against a repeat of the racism they faced during SARS

Actor Alain Uy, a star of the upcoming Hulu series “Marvel’s Helstrom,” worried early on that such incidents would occur after the virus’ spread.

“Once this outbreak happened in Wuhan, we all kind of went, ‘OK, we know what this is gonna mean,’” said the actor, who was born in the Philippines.

“Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu said he’s been feeling more cautious than usual.

“It’s very sad when I feel a little bit weird when I’m going to go for a walk around the block,” he said,

“The Real” co-host, Jeannie Mai, who is half-Vietnamese and half-Chinese, revealed recently that for the first time, she needed someone to monitor her social media posts to delete racist comments.

“The Good Doctor” actor Will Yun Lee is even nervous about taking his baby son to the grocery store: “My wife is Caucasian, but my son is half Korean and half white. But he looks very Asian.”

But Ma and other stars are speaking up and working to combat the ignorance and harassment. Ma joined actress Celia Au and other celebrities and influencers in the recent campaign called ” Wash the Hate, ” created by IW Group, an Asian American-focused marketing agency. The PSA features Ma, Au and others washing their hands and reminding people that hygiene, not xenophobia, is the way to help combat the virus.

“If I can start the conversation, why not?’ said Au, who was also born in Hong Kong. “If we don’t talk about it, then it’s not going to be talked about at all.”

For Cheng, the recent wave of anti-Asian sentiment brought back painful memories of her childhood growing up in Edmonton, Canada, where she was the victim of a bias attack as a teen.

She went down an internet rabbit hole of attacks posted online. “I had to stop watching,” she said. “It brought up all those feelings again from being a kid and not being able to do anything.”

Mai says that it’s not only important for Asian stars to speak out against these attacks, but people of other races as well.

“These are the conversations you need to be having with your kids in your house. You need to, even if you’re not Chinese. You should be explaining that this is terrible, that racism is coming out of this pandemic,” she said. “So, have that talk with your kid. Have that talk with your friends. If one of your friends says, ‘Yo, this ‘Chinese Virus’ is crazy.’ Say, ‘No. Actually, man it’s called COVID-19. It’s not the ‘Chinese Virus.’’ Just check them.”

READ MORE: Why do people get xenophobic when diseases like coronavirus hit?

Earlier this month, “The Real” host Bill Maher defended calling coronavirus the “Chinese Virus,” comparing it to the Spanish flu.

“While people say it’s innocuous and that it came from China, it’s the undertones,” Lee said. “Certain people will grab those undertones and attach to it.”

There’s also a worry that anti-Asian American sentiment could translate to a regression in Hollywood after recent success of telling Asian stories.

This year, the South Korean film “Parasite” won the best picture Oscar, and Chinese-American director Lulu Wang took home the Independent Spirit Award for her film, “The Farewell.” “Crazy Rich Asians” was a hit at the box office in 2018 and last year, Sandra Oh became the first Asian woman in 39 years to win the best leading TV actress Golden Globe for “Killing Eve.”

“I worry, is this going to impact our chances so soon after it feels like we finally made inroads?” Cheng said. “Is this going to regress us and put us however many steps back?”

Ma says the only way to proceed is to keep putting out diverse stories.

“There’s no relenting. We’ll keep moving forward. And hopefully one day, people are going to say, ‘You know what? I not only accept the differences, but I also accept the fact that we’re very much alike.’”

Alicia Rancilio, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Surrey is currently working through the initial phase for a park that’ll be built at 72 Avenue and 191 Street in Clayton. (Image via City of Surrey)
New park to be built in Clayton Heights

City of Surrey asking for feedback from Clayton residents

(Photo by Kevin Hill)
40 cases linked to Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

Fraser Health says two death are associated with the outbreak

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

Sources team members (left to right) Carrie Belanger, Abby Gemino, Tatiana Belyaeva, Yasmin de Joya-Pagal cheer during the 2020 Coldest Night of the Year event. This year’s event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sources photo)
White Rock’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser goes virtual

Annual walk raises funds for variety of Sources programs and services

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Most Read