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John Cho writes powerful essay on being Asian-American during coronavirus pandemic

US-Korean actor John Cho and his wife actress Kerri Higuchi arrive for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on February 9, 2020. VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

John Cho is speaking out about Asian-American discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an essay published by the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, the 47-year-old actor said the anti-Asian hate crimes that have occurred since the COVID-19 outbreak “reminds Asian Americans like me that our belonging is conditional.”

“I called my parents a few nights ago to tell them to be cautious when stepping out of the house, because they might be targets of verbal or even physical abuse. It felt so strange. Our roles had flipped,” Cho began.

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“My plea mirrored the admonitions I received from them as a child growing up in Houston. The world, they cautioned, was hostile and it viewed us as strangers. So they warned me to stick close to my family. Close to my kind,” he wrote.

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The actor explained how the pandemic has affected him and his family and friends.

“The fact that the coronavirus seems to have originated in China has spawned a slew of anti-Asian hate crimes. Across the country, Asian American parents and children are making versions of the call I made,” Cho wrote. “Friends are sharing first-hand accounts of abuse on text chains and circulating articles on Facebook, always ending with the suddenly ominous ‘stay safe.'”

“Asian Americans are experiencing such a moment right now,” the Harold & Kumar actor wrote. “One moment we are Americans, the next we are all foreigners, who ‘brought’ the virus here.”

Cho went on to explain how some Asian stereotypes are complimentary, which allows people to dismiss it as less harmful than other forms of racism.

“Because the stereotypes may be complimentary (hardworking, good at math), it makes people – including us – think that anti-Asian sentiment is somehow less serious, that it’s racism lite. That allows us to dismiss the current wave of Asian hate crimes as trivial, isolated and unimportant.

“If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that the solution to a widespread problem cannot be patchwork. Never has our interconnectedness and our reliance on each other been plainer.”

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“You can’t stand up for some and not for others. And like the virus, unchecked aggression has the potential to spread wildly,” Cho wrote. “Please don’t minimize the hate or assume it’s somewhere far away. It’s happening close to you. If you see it on the street, say something. If you hear it at work, say something. If you sense it in your family, say something. Stand up for your fellow Americans.”

Cho joins the list of celebrities who have spoken out about discrimination against Asians during the pandemic.

Hawaii Five-0 actor Daniel Dae Kim touched on the violence and discrimination that people of Asian descent have received since the outbreak began.

Kim, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, said it’s “very important” to “stop the prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people.”

“And one last, very important thing: Please, please stop the prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people,” Kim said. “Randomly beating elderly, sometimes homeless Asian Americans is cowardly, heartbreaking and inexcusable. Yes, I’m Asian, and yes, I have coronavirus, but I did not get it from China. I got it in America. In New York City.

“And despite what some political leaders want to call it, I don’t consider the place where it’s from as important as the people who are sick and dying. If I did, I would call this thing the New York virus, but that would be silly. The point is, the name-calling gets us nowhere. What matters is how best to take care of ourselves and one another.”

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before star Lana Condo also spoke out against U.S. President Donald Trump calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.”

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“You have no idea the ramifications your racist words & actions have on the Asian American community. You simply cannot even fathom the danger you are putting our community in. How dare you. You should be ashamed of yourself,” Condor wrote in a post on Twitter.

“You call yourself a leader? You know what leaders do? They LEAD by setting good examples and ACTION. Something we’ve yet to see you do.”

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“You need to take notes on Chinese billionaire Jack Ma who is ACTUALLY leading- by donating tests and millions of masks to AMERICA, bc you haven’t. Please. Be Better. So we aren’t afraid to leave our house in fear someone will verbally or physically abuse us because of your xenophobia.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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