Politicians, organizers, and nonprofits across the country are striving to support Chinatowns in an inspiring show of solidarity.
With the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world, there has been a worrying increase in xenophobic attitude towards anything and everything even remotely related to Asia. While a number of disturbing incidents of racially motivated verbal and physical attacks have been reported in recent months, mass hysteria has also taken a toll on local Chinatown businesses across the United States. Small businesses have seen a significant drop in foot traffic, forcing some to even close their doors. Now, their local communities are rising to their aid in an inspiring show of support and solidarity.
I can't believe I need to say this but, Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans living in the United States are not specifically at risk of COVID-19. They ARE at risk of social stigma. Go to Chinatown. Support businesses. Don't be a racist dickhead.https://t.co/uibTxh0S90— Moki Awa (@Mokiawa) March 4, 2020
Speaking to NBC News, a 29-year-old artist and educator named Jose Corcoles revealed that when he saw the typically humming streets of Chicago's Chinatown practically empty amidst rising fear of the coronavirus, his last thought was to stay away. With his friend Carlos Matias, Corcoles turned to social media to organize a restaurant crawl towards the end of February. Although he expected as little as five or 10 attendees, when the day came, he was pleasantly surprised to see the turnout. Despite frigid temperatures, almost 100 people showed up in solidarity and this heartwarming incident is just one of many similar stories across the nation.
I went to Chinatown in Houston today to support Chinese merchants in case there was any weirdness about the corona freak out and I got this amazing food. pic.twitter.com/7CkIDxHfot— Tony Nash (@TonyNashOnAsia) March 7, 2020
"It's the love that Chicagoans, and specifically people of color, have for Chinatown," Corcoles stated. Explaining that his effort was rooted in a sense of solidarity, he added that as a child of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants he felt sympathetic to Asian Americans facing discrimination because of the virus. Corcoles further emphasized that it was important to build "some solidarity across racial divisions." Like the Chicago Chinatown restaurant crawl, politicians, organizers, and nonprofits across the country are striving to support Chinatown communities.
What can be better than some soup dumplings from Green Bo on Bayard Street in Chinatown after a long day of work? Proud to support a great NYC small business.— Corey Johnson (@CoreyinNYC) March 5, 2020
Businesses are suffering in Chinatown, Flushing and Sunset Park. Go out and have a nice meal a great local restaurant! pic.twitter.com/WFrp1I4m8e
In many cases, city officials and council members have made public shows of support by sitting down for meals at Chinatown restaurants and inviting others to do the same. Karen Chen—the executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston—stated that although the city's Chinatown still has some visitors, "you do see a decline in business." Chen added that she's pleased to see local government officials combating misinformation and supporting the Chinese American community, but insisted that state and federal governments need to do more.
#Coronavirus is hitting the Chinatown International District in #Seattle hard.— Michelle Li (@MichelleLiTV) March 9, 2020
Now there's a push by CID leaders to help these local shops survive.
(This is a pic of Ocean Star Rest. on Saturday afternoon by Bill Tashima)
One way? Organize #TakeOutWednesday to show support. pic.twitter.com/DCMxcUbtgD
Chen believes the sudden reluctance to visit Chinatown in the past few months stems from prejudice and racism. "Some people are using it as a chance to attack China," she said of the virus. She added that as a Chinese American living in the U.S., she foresees the tension between the U.S. and China hurting her community. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Facebook announced last month that it would donate $20,000 to the nonprofit, Chinese Newcomers Service Center, to fund a shop local advertising campaign for Chinatown businesses. A spokeswoman for the company also revealed that an additional $5,000 was provided in Facebook ad credit.
Went to Manhattan Chinatown to my fav place my folks have been going since late 70s. It’s Americanized Cantonese food and it’s glorious. Support your local Chinese restaurants bc people are idiots. This place usually has a line up the stairs for lunch and it was only 3/4 full! pic.twitter.com/dAHuO4eVvF— Kris N (@KrsJams) March 7, 2020
Go eat in Chinatown! they’ve been feeling the heat lately from all the racism and enmity going on towards Asian people. They’ve been the most negatively affected financially from the corona virus paranoia! Go support local owned businesses/restaurants!— Austin Von Wibmer (@AustinVonWibmer) March 8, 2020
Over in New York, the nonprofit crime prevention group Guardian Angels is protecting Asian Americans from hate crimes by sending volunteer safety patrols. "If anybody’s harassing you, if anybody’s targeting you, anyone’s thinking that you’re a carrier because you’re carrying a mask, they’ll have to deal with us," said the group's founder, Curtis Sliwa. "We’ll physically intervene. We’ll break up fights and disputes. We’ll make citizen’s arrests." While group members now patrol the streets of Chinatown every day, some have made it a point to eat at local restaurants hoping to inspire others to do the same.
At this moment, Chinatown is on life support and needs more than our showing up for an occasional meal or visit to shop. Here are plenty of ways to do just that. https://t.co/wH0G8tiaH2— Food & Wine (@foodandwine) March 6, 2020
Meanwhile, Corcoles—who is thinking about organizing another restaurant crawl in the coming weeks—says that the goal right now is to rekindle a sense of community. "We are living in a super political moment that sees us creating a lot of borders and a lot of divisions, between people and between races and nations. I was really just hoping to create community," he said.