By Meghan Droste, May 19, 2021
In January, I mentioned that it seemed like maybe we could see the light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel. At that time, I honestly didn’t think that light would be any more than a pinprick for many, many months to come. Surprisingly, it seems to be far brighter now that we’ve reached May. More than a third of the 18+ population is now fully vaccinated, with nearly 60 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated. CDC guidance on masks and group activities is changing somewhat rapidly. It feels like we might actually get back to some version of “normal” relatively soon. This feels like a long time coming, and also very fast.
While I know it’s important to look forward to all of the things we can do soon and all of the people we can see after going far too long without being together, we also shouldn’t be too quick to look away from the past year and the profound impact the pandemic has had, and continues to have, on so many people. The Commission took a look back recently during a hearing on how the pandemic hurt vulnerable populations. (A summary of the hearing is available here and you can read more about it in Michael Rhoads’ article.) The Commission heard expert testimony on various impacts of the pandemic, including the disproportionate impact of job losses on women people of color, the significant decline of women’s participation in the workforce, and increases in disability discrimination.
As we’re in the middle of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, I also want to highlight the discussion of the significant impact on the AAPI community. As John C. Yang of Asian American Advancing Justice testified, “[w]ith the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and anti-Asian hate and violence sweeping through Asian American communities nationwide, Asian American workers face significant challenges, including threats to both their lives and their livelihoods.”
As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported the following in March in its annual survey of hate and harassment on social media: “Asian-Americans experienced the largest single rise in severe online hate and harassment year-over-year in comparison to other groups.”
The harassment of the AAPI community tied to the pandemic has been widespread and tragically, violent at times. Recent news stories depict physical attacks on members of the AAPI community in locations literally coast-to-coast. The harassment has also been verbal, with reports of people yelling “China-virus” or “go home” to people who appear to be Asian American. Agencies, of course, have an obligation to prevent harassment in the workplace and correct it if it occurs. This includes addressing microaggressions (“Where are you really from?”) as well as more open and obvious harassment (“Go back to Communist China.”). I encourage you to keep this in mind as we all start to look forward to the end of the worst of the pandemic. Droste@FELTG.com