Tuesday, June 2, 2020 | 4:00 PM EDT - 5:15 PM EDT

Zoom webinar | Jennifer Ho, John Pomfret

With the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, reports of racism against Asian-Americans have risen sharply, drawing renewed attention to issues of bias, immigration, and the place of Asian-Americans in society. The current surge of anti-Asian incidents highlights a troubling history, and reinforces the urgent need to examine, understand, and confront these issues that affect the lives of Asian-Americans, influence American perceptions of China, and ultimately affect Sino-American relations on the global stage.

On June 2, 2020, the National Committee hosted a virtual discussion with Jennifer Ho, professor of ethnic studies at University of Colorado and president of the Association for Asian American Studies, and John Pomfret, former Washington Post correspondent and author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present, on the history of anti-Chinese/Asian racism in the United States, the impact of coronavirus-related racism, and the importance of uniting across our communities to stand up against all forms of discrimination.

Below are the five key takeaways from the presentation.

  • Racism is systemic, institutional, and can mutate, taking many forms throughout history. Since the spread of COVID-19, the rise in anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism has increased significantly across the world.
  • Anti-Chinese racism has existed in the United States since the first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the United States in the mid-19th century. This was fueled by the language of “Yellow Peril” and was codified into law in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
  • When the Chinese Exclusion Act was made permanent in 1904, it sparked a series of anti-American boycotts in China, the first push inside China to fight against Western imperialism. The treatment of Chinese in the United States has had, and continues to have, an enormous influence on the U.S.-China relationship.
  • While the Chinese Exclusion Act was eventually repealed in the 1940s, the racism it embodies and white supremacy it perpetuates has played a major role in guiding cultural perceptions in how the United States continues to view Asian-Americans. For example, the terms “Asian-American” and “African-American” both disambiguate the nuance and diversity of the heritage of individuals, as well as reinforce a perception that these groups will never be fully part of the defined “American” image.
  • Anyone can be an anti-racist ally by educating oneself on the history of racism in the United States and initiating conversations about the issues of racism within their communities. Beyond self-education and dialogue, being an anti-racist ally also includes actively identifying and fighting racist practices and policies when you see them.

Jennifer Ho

Jennifer Ho is the director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she also holds an appointment as professor of ethnic studies. She is the daughter of a refugee father from China and an immigrant mother from Jamaica. She is the president of the Association for Asian American Studies and the author of three scholarly monographs, including Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture (Rutgers University Press 2015), which won the South Atlantic Modern Language Association award for best monograph.

In addition to her academic work, Ms. Ho is active in community engagement around issues of race and intersectionality, leading workshops on anti-racism and how to talk about race in our current political climate. You can follow her on Twitter @drjenho.

John Pomfret

John Pomfret is an award-winning journalist and writer who has divided his time among the United States, China, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East since the 1980s. He was one of the first Americans to study in China following the establishment of diplomatic relations, and was a correspondent in China for the Associated Press and the Washington Post for a total of seven years, first in the late 1980s and then again in the early 2000s. Mr. Pomfret is the author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present in addition to the best-seller Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China (2007).

Mr. Pomfret is a contributing writer to the Washington Post‘s global opinions section and works as a consultant based in California. He frequently speaks about Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy, Chinese culture, marketing to the Chinese, and China’s environmental, demographic, and political challenges.