Asian-American and Asian-Canadian celebrities and influencers are using their voices to help combat the acts of discrimination and violence against individuals of Asian descent amid the global COVID-19 pandemic by participating in a social media campaign called #WashTheHate.
The campaign, which was created by IW Group, calls on individuals of Asian descent to post a video of themselves washing their hands for 20 seconds (as per the CDC’s recommendations) while sharing personal stories about how the coronavirus has impacted their lives.
“We were extremely disturbed by the recent uptick in coronavirus-related discrimination and violence against Asian Americans and felt we needed to do something,” Telly Wong, Chief Content Officer at IW Group, tells The RepresentASIAN Project. “We want to dispel any misinformation or flat out lies or about the Asian American community and the coronavirus. It’s easy to scapegoat a group of people when they don’t have a platform to defend themselves or speak out. This campaign seeks to bring our community together and create a unified voice that cuts through the noise.”
So far, celebrity participants include Mulan star, Tzi Ma, YouTuber and musician, AJ Rafael, Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, Supernatural star, Osric Chau, Power Rangers star Ludi Lin and Wu Assassins actress, Celia Au.
Au says she decided to participate in the #WashTheHate campaign to raise awareness and let people know that racism is not okay in any circumstance.
“History has already shown us how destructive this type of prejudice can be, so why repeat it?” Au tells The RepresentASIAN Project. “I want to try my best to get rid of discrimination for our future generations to come.”
Au says the campaign is especially important after U.S. Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” both on Twitter and during briefings (a picture captured by Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford of Trump’s briefing notes showed that Trump crossed out corona and replaced it with “Chinese”).
“By going out of his way to call this the ‘Chinese Virus,’ not only is [Trump] normalizing prejudice against Asians, but he is also putting the lives of every Asian at risk of racially-based attacks, both physical and verbal,” says Au. “We, as individuals, need to step up and educate others.”
She continues, “There are Asian medical professionals and their families experiencing these types of racist attacks right now, and they are the ones who are risking their own lives to save ours. How is that okay? They might be the ones taking care of you when you are severely ill.”
Ma, the Chinese-American actor who plays the patriarch in Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, recently told Variety he experienced a racist attack while shopping at a Whole Foods grocery store in Pasedena, California. As he made his way to the entrance, a car approached him.
“He rolls down the window and goes, ‘You should be quarantined,’ and then he took off,” Ma told Variety, adding he stood there speechless before unleashing screams at the verbal assaulter, who was by long gone by then.
“I just went numb. You know how you go cold? You just go cold and numb,” he said. “This is emotional. This affected my psyche.”
Of the #WashTheHate campaign, Ma said he hopes it sends a message of “solidarity and compassion to the world.”
“Hatred and division aren’t going to prevent this virus from spreading and will only make an already-difficult situation even worse,” he said in a statement. “We’re calling for everyone — regardless of their race or country of origin — to recognize that we’re all in this fight together.”
Au shares similar sentiments.
“I hope that this will be a wake up call to people who think that it’s funny or okay to be discriminatory. It is not and it is never acceptable. Not just towards Asians but towards every race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so forth,” she says.