Maliibu Miitch, MILCK, Jay Park, Saweetie, Ted Park

'We Need Hope & Unity More Than Ever': Asian-American Artists Weigh in on Coronavirus Impact

Amid the social, emotional, mental and economic effects that have impacted hundreds of millions of people around the world caused by the coronavirus, Asian people are also dealing with an evergreen threat to minorities in times of crisis: xenophobia.

Reports of harassment as well as racist and violent attacks against Asians have increased since the virus has spread, and the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council launched a site to track the discriminatory incidents. As of March 26, the STOP AAPI HATE reporting center has received 673 reports of coronavirus discrimination from Asian Americans across the country, according to the Chinese for Affirmative Action coalition.

In addition, Asian-owned businesses such as restaurants, markets and mom-and-pop storefronts, have reportedly experienced vandalism because of the virus. 

President Donald Trump has also stoked the flames of prejudice by giving the pandemic a racially charged moniker, calling it the “Chinese virus.” “It’s not racist at all, no,” he insisted to reporters during a press conference in March. “It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”

Then in light of attacks against Asian Americans, Trump tried to backtrack via Twitter on March 23, writing: “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus.... NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!”

Artists have taken a much more direct and expletive-laced approach. A consistently vocal pundit on current affairs, Cardi B has been one of the more high-profile acts to address xenophobia, saying during a recent Instagram Live session: "Let's stop being xenophobic. Let's stop saying f--ked up jokes. Let's stop having crazy anger because I've been seeing a lot of Asians get beat up and all that s--t.”

Rapper and actor, Dumbfoundead -- who is of Korean descent -- has also dedicated some real estate on his twitter timeline to calling out racism. “Y’all media outlets gonna make the virus spread even more trynna make it seem like you can only catch this s--t from Asians, stop this racist s--t,” he wrote in early March. But he also added some levity by sharing a clip of Asian people standing several feet apart in what appears to be the park, putting middle fingers up. “Doing my part and teaching the Asian elderly how to social distance,” he wrote.

In exchanges with Billboard via email, several artists of Asian descent voiced their opinions on the climate that xenophobia in the age of COVID-19 has created. Some shared personal stories while others issued a call for inclusivity, stressing the importance of cultural education and unity in these trying times.

Here's what they told us, in their own words.

Korean-American rapper, producer, actor, entrepreneur

In my opinion a president is a leader, and a leader is accountable and should take responsibility for his people. As the United States president, he should be worrying about the safety of the American people. Americans come in the form of all different ethnicities, and that includes Asian Americans. In an already tense and crazy situation where Asian American people are being targeted or attacked just for that fact that they are Asian, the fact the President of the United States -- who has all the power and influence with all the media attention in the world -- would come out in public and call COVID-19 virus a "Chinese virus'' is irresponsible and disgusting.  

In a time where we all need to come together and work as one, he is creating even more racial tension and divide. Instead of worrying about the crisis at hand, it seems like he's more worried about the [criticisms] he receives in the media or responding to the “he says, she says,” very high school-like drama on Twitter. I never say f--k someone because by saying that, you're shutting them out and it denies you the opportunity to understand someone and grow as a person, but in this case, I think it’s safe to make the assumption that our president is ignorant.  

I hope Americans can come together and make better choices in the future, and that's my two cents on his 'Chinese virus' statement. Now I'm going to bump YG & Nipsey Hussle "FDT" and go about making sure MY PEOPLE are all good like a REAL LEADER should. Marathon continues, stay safe and healthy, GOD BLESS.

Vietnamese/Filipino/African-American rapper

I’ve been disappointed and frustrated more than usual lately because I feel like the whole world is fallin’ for the trap of our current president. To be insensitive, racist and a sexist all in one before our very eyes has been the standards set for Americans, driven full force by our own president, the person we were supposed to believe in and draw strength from. So many times in history, we watch people abuse their power and selfishly use it for their own gain. It feels like history is repeating itself.

Trump is doing everything in his power to divide and conquer our nation. As the people that make up our country, we have to stick together and know that not every racist comment is a funny joke and not every statement is to be taken lightly. Our reality is we have a racist for a president and we have to start preparing for what’s to come. Bless all the families who lost their life to coronavirus, Ebola and West Nile.

Korean-American rapper

I was disappointed and more than anything a little heartbroken [by Trump’s comments]. During this tough and difficult situation, we need hope and unity more than ever. I felt Trump’s remarks are adding more fuel to the fire, dividing us even more when we should be coming together. 

I was on tour right as COVID-19 was making headlines for the first time in China, and seeing how frightened and disturbed some people looked at us in the airports, on planes, etc., made me understand how frightened people really are. A cab driver actually asked us what kind of Asian we were, and after responding in Korean, [he] asked if we heard about the “Korean virus” going on.

I’ve heard every single Asian joke through friends, strangers in public and in my Instagram DMs too. Whether you think it’s funny or not, it’s all contributing to the violence and ignorance towards Asian people, and we can’t stand by that. Harassing and scaring innocent elderly people who are Asian for social media is not amusing -- it’s disgusting. Imagine someone violating your grandma or grandpa and watching it on the internet. Would it be funny then? 

My parents are actually in South Korea right now, and their well-being is on my mind more than ever. Thankfully, it seems like things over there are smoothing out, and my parents have been spending time at home. As for me, I’ve been locked in my producer DJ Pain 1’s home studio in Madison, Wis., cooking new music and visuals. Also, since all my spring concerts got canceled, I livestreamed a free concert for the fans with DJ Bonics and Go95.3 MN, and that was a blast. Just trying to stay productive and active while keeping a positive mindset for my fam and fans. 

[Allies can help by] stop spreading the ignorance of COVID and to educate people that Asians are not the virus, to help people understand that these are serious circumstances and we need to stay home, take social distancing seriously and do everyone we can to keep each other safe. Most importantly, we need to understand that the only way we’re going to get through these times is to unify and make sure we are doing our part. Our actions have never been so connected, as our own decisions affect each and every one of us more than ever. Stop placing blame, stop playing around, and do our part so our lives can go back to normal. 

Chinese-American singer-songwriter

I was not totally surprised by Trump’s racist language because, unfortunately, he has been consistently exemplifying elitist and white supremacist behavior, from eliciting fear through the Muslim ban, and to migrants at the border, and now for insisting on calling the virus the “Chinese virus.”

Regardless of Trump’s disrespectful track record, this one was particularly cutting, as I myself am a Chinese American. Even starting in January, Asian-owned businesses were already getting hit hard with a slowdown in business. The xenophobia has kept many people away from Asian stores and areas, leading close to 80 percent loss of business. 

I will also note that many of us refer to the 1918 flu pandemic as the Spanish flu, which we could instead refer to as the 1918 flu pandemic. I have more empathy now that that probably did not feel good to some people of Spanish heritage. I think we are constantly evolving to notice how racism is deeply embedded in all of us, to the point that sometimes we don’t even notice our own actions.

I see both a regression of tolerance from our nation’s leader, but also a rise of awareness happening within culture between the day-to-day people of this country. That gives me hope.  A close family member told me that while he was minding his own business, using the bathroom, a stranger walked up to him and intrusively looked him up and down and said, “You don’t have corona, do you?” 

I was at my friend’s house, and her dad was making fun of “the Asian people wearing masks in Costco.” It hurt my heart to hear someone I know joke about that, even to my face. I think a lot of these microaggressions are not intentional, but come from a place of ignorance or lack of empathy. The good news with that is that things can change.

My sister’s colleague has reported vandalism on Asian American storefronts. This breaks my heart, as small business owners of all heritages are already taking such a hard hit. Needing to deal with both business stresses and this type of hatred is a tragedy.  A coalition called Chinese for Affirmative Action has cited that within a 24-hour period [on March 19], they tracked 40 cases of violence against Asian-Americans related to the coronavirus. 

I have been coping with these uncertain times by bouncing between binging on The Morning Show and Westworld, to a lot of FaceTiming with my loved ones, to home workouts by GoTribe Fitness, to creating art that helps to funnel resources to others. Giving back is my way of channeling my restless energy, so I feel like I am being proactive with what I can control. I am also holding weekly Monday Night livestreams called MILCK Mondays. The concerts pop up on my YouTube homepage and are free. For those who can and want to donate, we provide a donation link that directly funds Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

[To allies], if you see something, say something. Speak out for us when you see something unjust or hateful.

Chinese/Filipino/African-American rapper and entrepreneur

It's not about politics for me, although I definitely have a side, it's about humanity and respecting the culture and stopping xenophobia. I am of Chinese, Filipino and African-American descent, so I am a triple minority. I have seen and experienced the pain division can cause. The world needs to come together. We are an ecosystem in every way.