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CHICAGO — There has been a spike in racism directed toward Asian Americans since COVID-19 spread to the United States. Asian American leaders have been hearing about the racial incidents, if not experiencing themselves. Now they are putting political leaders on notice to do something about it.

In one incident recorded by a San Diego Uber driver on March 14, three people could be seen getting into his car. One of the people, a woman, asks him, “Where are you from?” When he says he is from Hong Kong, the woman laughs and says, “Coronavirus, right?”

Incidents such as that are on the rise. Asian Americans are reporting being verbally and physically assaulted and having their property vandalized as a result of the pandemic.

Mabel Menard, president of the OCA of Greater Chicago said Asian Americans were already hearing racial remarks even without the virus. She said it’s just giving people more ammunition to do it.

Menard said she was harassed about three weeks ago in an Old Town restaurant. She said she was having dinner alone when a man asked her, “Do you have the corona?”

“And I just kind of stared back at him and said, ‘I’m having a wine,’” she said.

Illinois State Rep. Therea Mah has gotten similar reports.

“I don’t think it was helped by the president calling it the Chinese virus,” she said.

The national chapter of OCA, Asian Pacific Advocates, along with dozens of other national human rights groups including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League have sent a letter to President Donald Trump and other elected officials calling on them to publicly denounce the increase in racist attacks against Asian Americans.

“What they are not seeing is the fact that there is a whole community that is under attack, where it’s words, verbal abuse, physical abuse, that it has nothing to do with them,” Menard said. 

Menard, who is also a clinical psychologist, said she’s worried these incidents may start getting out of hand.

“Be prepared, it may or may not happen to you but it’s important to know that it may and 3:55 have a game plan if you are physically attacked,” Menard said.

Mah is calling for calm.

“After all this hopefully we can all come together and remember the instances in which we helped each other,” she said.

If you experience any acts of aggression, you are asked to report it to police and to other agencies that are documenting these acts. Visit the following links for more information: