You may have seen in the news recently that Urban Hot Pot, Bonchon, Kung Fu Tea and Corner Bakery in Columbia along with Coal Fire Pizza and East Moon Asian Bistro in Ellicott City all were broken into in the overnight hours. Although not all of these robberies were directed at Asian American entrepreneurs, it’s true that a disproportionate number of these businesses were Asian owned.
These are challenging times, but in some ways, we’ve seen this before. I’ve spoken previously about our country’s history of targeting “the other.” Let’s not let this moment pass us by without comment. We should take a look back for a bit of perspective unless we repeat the mistakes of the past.
Between 1863 and 1869, Chinese laborers answering America’s call for cheap labor came to help build the transcontinental railroad. They faced harsh treatment, high taxes on foreigners, and racially-motivated violence.
In the 1880s, “yellow peril” – fear of an Asian invasion – paved the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning both new immigrants and existing residents from becoming U.S. citizens. By 1917, after decades of pressure from anti-immigrant movements like “100 percent Americanism,” the Asiatic Barred Zone Act put a halt to most Indian and Asian immigration. And of course there were the Japanese internment camps during WWII. It wasn’t until the Immigration Act of 1965 that all race-specific barriers were removed.
In the past year, as COVID-19 infections appeared in the U.S., President Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and “Chinese flu” and random individuals of Asian descent all over the country (whether actually from China or not) have been physically assaulted, verbally harassed, and shunned. Recently, there’s been another spike in physical violence in Asian American communities.
As we address the many challenges facing us in America today, let’s keep in mind the image of inclusion that sits right down on the shores of our own Lake Kittamaqundi… the “People Tree.” The “People Tree” by Pierre Du Fayet is Columbia’s most visible and iconic sculpture. This civic monument is the artistic interpretation of Columbia’s goal to create an environment that contributes to the growth of ALL people and fosters community spirit.
Our community has accepted and included many different genders, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and abilities to the 66 people on that tree and together they have created one of the most vibrant, affluent and tolerant communities in the State of Maryland.
Let’s not forget our history or give up on the vision of the “People Tree.”
Call to Action:
- Please give your support to local nonprofits that works so valiantly to improve the lives of all who live in our community.
- Learn about and address those barriers to full equity and inclusion.
- Make a positive step to learn about the lives of your neighbors, both the challenges they face and the victories they win.
- Let those of us at the Community Foundation know what community issues or challenges are of greatest interest to you.
Please stay safe, but stay engaged!
President & CEO
Community Foundation of Howard County