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Who’s teaching us to hate

Where does the hate come from? That was the question on many people’s minds after the killing of women at three spas in Georgia on Tuesday drew even more attention to the targeting of Asian Americans in the year since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.

A 21-year-old man was arrested and charged with shooting to death eight people, including six Asian women, in metropolitan Atlanta. While officials said they were investigating the motive — they cited the suspect’s claim he had a “sex addiction” — there was growing outrage over the spate of attacks ever since the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in China, and politicians, including then-President Donald Trump, labeled it the “China virus.”

“Politicians didn’t invent prejudice, but they are exploiting it for political gain, and destroying lives in the process,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “During House hearings on anti-Asian violence Thursday, Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, somehow managed to speak approvingly of lynchings — ‘Find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree…we take justice very seriously…’ — while excoriating China’s regime and its role in the pandemic. It was a virtuoso performance of false equivalency and incitement. But stoking racism and fear of immigrants has become one of the go-to tools of the Trumpist Republican Party.”

Jennifer Ho, the daughter of a refugee father from China and an immigrant mother from Jamaica, lived in the South for nearly 20 years. She wrote that “To be an Asian woman in America means you can’t just be what you are: a fully enfranchised human being. It means you are a blank screen on which others project their stories, especially, too often, their sexualized fantasies — because US culture has long presented Asian women as sexualized objects for White male enjoyment.” A professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Ho is the president of the Association for Asian American Studies.

“To be an Asian woman working in the US South in the massage industry means being an object, not a subject…It means further disappearing: being one of six women killed in what people aren’t even calling a racially motivated crime, although can there be any doubt that it was misogyny and toxic masculinity that killed you?”

CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout wrote from Hong Kong that “hate has turned my once proud and confident Asian-American mother into a shut-in. It’s not because of the virus as Covid-19 continues to rage in my home state of California. It’s because she is absolutely certain that as an older Asian woman with a limp she will be targeted by violence. THIS is the America she left her homeland for?

Adeline Chen, a features producer in Atlanta for CNN International, took a road trip with her family through the South last summer because further travels seemed risky. “While on the surface, it might have seemed like a safe and socially distant trip, it felt anything but during this period of racial reckoning and a pandemic,” she wrote. “My daughter and I were often the sole minorities in RV parks surrounded by flags and signs supporting then-President Donald Trump, who routinely called Covid-19 the ‘China Virus’ or ‘Kung Flu.’… Many people can afford to excuse the ‘crazy uncle’ who says racist things, but in doing so, they allow unacceptable rhetoric that has real life harmful implications for those like myself, who cannot shed their skin — nor would want to.

In just the first two months of this year, “Asian Americans have reported being targeted at least 500 times,” John Avlon pointed out. “In recent weeks, we’ve seen the murder of an 87-year-old Thai immigrant, Vichar Ratanapakdee, as well as the brutal assault of a 67-year-old man in San Francisco not named publicly, and the beating of 27-year-old Denny Kim in LA’s Koreatown, who says his attackers shouted ‘You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China.'”

For more on political issues:

Euny Hong: How are the Atlanta spa shootings NOT a hate crime

SE Cupp: ‘What century am I in?’

Jeffrey D. Sachs: High-speed trains. Fast internet. Clean water. Solar energy: These should be Biden’s goals now

Paul Begala: George Bush’s moment of blinding clarity

Amara Walker: Teen Vogue EIC Alexi McCammond’s apology to Asians isn’t enough

War of words

It didn’t take long. President Joe Biden isn’t even finished with his first 100 days in office and he’s already locked in a war of words with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Wednesday, Biden told interviewer George Stephanopoulos that he would indeed characterize Putin as a “killer” and said he would “pay a price” after a US government intelligence report accusing Russia of meddling in the 2020 election to help Donald Trump. Putin answered Biden, “I wish you health.” As Russia expert Daniel Treisman wrote, “It was an interesting choice of phrase for a leader accused of having his enemies poisoned…All this suggests the depths to which US-Russia relations have sunk.”

Biden’s policy on Russia couldn’t be more different from Trump’s. But on China, the two administrations may have a lot in common. At the end of last week, Biden’s team brought together the leaders of the “Quad” countries — Australia, India, Japan and the US. Lisa Curtis, who was deputy assistant to Trump and a director on the National Security Council, called the Biden move “a remarkable demonstration that it will not only build on the momentum the alliance has gained over the last three years, but also make it the centerpiece of the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy,” to counter “the rising superpower,” China.

Covid turning point?

Last May 24 was supposed to be wedding day for Aliza Norwood, a physician and medical school professor in Austin, Texas, and her fiancé Dan. “Instead,” Norwood recalled, “we stood in the open doorway of his house in our sweats and laughed as a torrent of hail pelted down from the sky. The absurdity of a torrential hailstorm during a Texas summer on that particular day felt totally appropriate during those early months of the pandemic, when the whole world seemed turned upside down.”

Since then, they’ve rescheduled the wedding three times, waiting for a time when a large gathering would be safe again. They are not alone of course — millions have canceled plans and taken smart precautions against spreading the virus. But now there are glimmers of hope.

CNN’s global tracker shows that an average of 11 million vaccine doses are being administered each day around the world. The US is among the nations furthest along in vaccinating its population, with 12% fully — and another 10% partly — vaccinated.

Still, there are fears about variant versions of the virus that causes Covid-19, and Europe is struggling with a resurgence, along with a slow rollout of vaccines. “The virus will always find a way around things — become more transmissible, less vaccine-controllable,” wrote Dr. Kent Sepkowitz. “Like everything else in the real world, pandemic control will require that people make good decisions.”

What are you hoping to do once it’s safe to venture out more widely? Share your thoughts here and we’ll report back.

Jill Filipovic can’t wait for things to get back to “some kind of normal.” She observed, “I feel isolated, anxious, depressed and miserable, like an entire year of my life disappeared. But this moment — the beginning of the end of our social halt — is going to be one of the hardest parts for a lot of us … like all big life transitions, a lot of people are going to react poorly to it. It’s going to stir up uncertainty and fear, hope and disappointment. Change — even change for the better — is tough on a lot of people. Let’s all go easy on each other.”

As hard as it may be to get a vaccine appointment right now, the surprising reality is that the US will soon have an enormous glut of vaccines, wrote Michael Camuñez, a former US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. It has secured enough doses of the three FDA -approved vaccines for at least 500 million people, “twice the target population.”

“We can’t let a life-saving surplus go to waste,” Camuñez wrote. The first place that should get America’s excess vaccine? Mexico. It is one of the nation’s largest trading partners and shares a 2,200 mile border with the US. “The longer Mexico persists with a majority of its population unvaccinated, the greater the risk that a new mutation or strain of the virus could emerge and infect those in the US,” he observed in a CNN Opinion piece published Monday. On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is finalizing plans to start sharing doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Mexico and Canada.

Several nations paused the use of that vaccine after reports surfaced of blood clots among a few recipients. “Regulators and vaccine safety experts still consider the vaccine to be overwhelmingly safe and effective,” wrote Ines Hassan, a senior health policy researcher, “and many of the countries that halted the use of the vaccine have since reversed course. Nevertheless, there is a great deal more work that needs to be done to rebuild trust in the vaccine.

Fundamental rights

How did President Joe Biden win approval for a $1.9 trillion Covid-relief package that sent money to most Americans, state and local governments, schools and businesses? Credit a 47-year Georgia politician who continually demonstrates her accomplishment. Stacey Abrams became the first woman party leader in the Georgia legislature, narrowly lost a race for governor and led voter-outreach efforts that helped turn the red state blue in November and then went on to elect two Democratic senators.

Now Abrams is focused on fighting GOP efforts to make voting harder in states where Democrats scored victories last year. “Many Republicans have weaponized the 2020 election lies as the impetus to propose sweeping efforts to suppress voter access,” Abrams wrote for CNN Opinion. “The litany of proposed changes is dizzying — from making voting by mail more difficult by eliminating no-excuse absentee voting, to limiting early voting options to restricting ballot drop box locations.”

She urged the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, even if it has to make an exception to the filibuster rule, as it did with the Covid relief package. “Nothing is more essential to the durability of our democracy than the ability of the people to speak, regardless of ZIP code, race, age or income.”

Former Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican, warned Democrats to take care. “If the filibuster is eliminated — and when Republicans regain control of the White House and Congress someday — Democrats should expect attempts by the GOP to strike back.” The filibuster needs changes, Dent argued. “Without a bipartisan consensus on changes to the filibuster, however, Congress will become even more tragically divided than it already is.”

The Democratic-controlled House is facing a potentially momentous election ruling. Rita Hart, a Democratic candidate in Iowa, lost her election by six votes to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, according to that state’s election officials. There are 22 disputed ballots, enough to oust the Republican and install Hart in the seat, if the Democratic-controlled House supports her challenge.

Election law expert Joshua A. Douglas argued that it would be a mistake: “Former President Donald Trump infamously refused to accept defeat in 2020, producing dangerous results for the peaceful transfer of power. He wanted Vice President Pence and Republicans in Congress to object to states that he lost. That mindset — that it is acceptable for a losing candidate to appeal to a favorable partisan body to challenge the results — undermines the legitimacy of our democracy.

New York (and California) states of mind

The governors of two huge coastal states faced crises — of two very different natures — this week that could end with them thrown them out of office. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under investigation by the State Attorney General and a state assembly committee that could launch an effort to impeach him over sexual harassment allegations and a scandal involving the misreporting of deaths in nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It shouldn’t have taken the recent revelations for New Yorkers to recognize that Cuomo’s conduct has long been disqualifying, wrote Kara Alaimo. “It is not news that Gov. Cuomo is a bully. While there is no excuse for his behavior, New Yorkers also bear some responsibility for repeatedly choosing to elevate him to power. Now, it’s time for all of us to reevaluate the values we want our leaders to embody and withdraw support for the kinds of men who — intentionally or unintentionally — hold women back.”

The case “for impeaching New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is increasingly compelling,” wrote Lincoln Mitchell, but his rivals in the state may fear that the potential elevation of lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul, a moderate Democrat from upstate, could frustrate their hopes — of either a progressive successor to Cuomo, or, in the Republicans’ case, of a GOP governor.

In California, Republicans may have secured enough petition signatures to force Gov. Gavin Newsom into a recall election. But it’s not a partisan “power play,” wrote Lanhee J. Chen. “Voters don’t want to recall Newsom because of his stances on climate change, race relations or cultural wedge issues. Instead, much of the public disaffection is rooted in Newsom’s mismanagement and inadequate leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic,” including a failure to reopen many schools, reversals on reopening businesses, questions about vaccine distribution and trouble with the unemployment insurance program, according to Chen.

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Progress…and miles to travel

Nestled in the hundreds of pages of the Covid relief bill are provisions worth $5 billion that begin to reverse the historic wrongs suffered by African American farmers, wrote Peniel E. Joseph. “Black folk have farmed, planted, tilled and cultivated agricultural and food production in America since their arrival from Africa on slave ships,” Joseph observed.

A century ago, black farmers owned 14% of all farms. Today they own “less than 1% of American farmland. These disparities reflect oppressive practices after slavery that blocked Black wealth accumulation. Former enslaved African Americans, after being promised ’40 acres and a mule’ as compensation for decades of unpaid labor during racial slavery, were instead coerced through violence and economic intimidation into peonage and sharecropping that kept Black farmers living in perpetual debt.” The new law will relieve farmers of $4 billion in debt and invest another $1 billion in “outreach, education, grants and investments.”

As one injustice faced some resolution in parts of the South, another plagued it. “Many of the primarily Black residents of Mississippi’s capital, Jackson, spent weeks without running water after a cold spell burst a huge number of the city’s pipes,” wrote historian Keri Leigh Merritt. “According to Mississippi Today, over 40,000 people, the equivalent of a sold-out game at Wrigley Field, were not able to drink, bathe or wash clothes, dishes, hands or even flush toilets — all during a pandemic… As Mississippi Free Press reported, Governor Tate Reeves and other White lawmakers are essentially holding the Black-led, Black-populated city hostage, refusing to fund repairs.” Officials announced Wednesday that the boil water advisories were finally lifted.

For Merritt, the situation brought to mind Nina Simone’s haunting song, written in 1963, “Mississippi Goddam.”

One of its lines: “All I want is equality

for my sister my brother my people and me.”

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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