OPINION: America’s Other Pandemic
As glimpses of “normal” begin to return to our daily lives with vaccination numbers growing, an unfortunate reminder of America’s other pandemic reared its head in Georgia.
From well prior to COVID-19 shutdowns, America has been grappling with the widespread embrace of blatant falsehoods. Biochemistry professor and writer Isaac Asimov called it a “Cult of ignorance” in a 1980 piece by the same name. In it, Asimov denounces what has become a slogan for some over the past year, “Don’t trust the experts!” He also wrote:
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
This sentiment has proven itself time and again in consequential fashion over the past year, including among mounting cases of hate crimes against Asian Americans. That specific issue came to the forefront last week as a gunman entered three different spas in the Atlanta area, killing eight people including six women of Asian dissent.
Regardless of what is determined to have been the motive of that particular event, the shooting underscored thousands of documented acts of hate against Asian Americans over the past year.
The group Stop AAPI Hate released a report just before the shooting that documented nearly 3,800 reported cases of discrimination against Asian Americans from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. Of those cases, 68.1 percent involved verbal harassment, 20.5 involved shunning or deliberate avoidance, 11.1 were cases of physical assault, 8.5 were civil rights violations and 6.8 were cases of online harassment.
It is easy to draw the line from these events directly to rhetoric scapegoating China from the onset of outbreaks in Wuhan. These wars of words were a transparently obvious ploy to distract from the culpability of American leadership in our inconsistent response to the crisis. Despite their lack of basis in fact, some have allowed that kindling to supplant any rational thought, stoking fear and angst of the other in its place.
As Americans, we have a choice to own these acts or condone them. To call these sentiments out and not afford them a womb in any community we are a part of, or risk them growing into more violent acts.
America’s other pandemic is ignorance, and it is only fought with facts, accountability and when we do not have the resources to properly verify, trusting the consensus of experts. Stop Asian American hate.