Eugene Denounces Anti-Asian Racism, Declares May Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

May 27, 2020

Photo taken August 6, 2019 during an event in Eugene honoring the anniversary of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Bombings. Traditional Japanese Obon dancers, with the Japanese-American Association of Lane County, taught attendees dances in celebration of the planting of a Peace Tree in Alton Baker Park.
Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News

In a unanimous decision, Eugene city councilors voted Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance condemning COVID-19 related bigotry aimed at people with Asian descent. Concurrently, the resolution recognizes May as Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.

This comes at a time when Asian communities across the globe have seen an increase in xenophobia. Councilors Greg Evans and Jennifer Yeh worked on the resolution that encourages people to report all incidents of hate and bias to the Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement

“Some people in our city and across our nation think that COVID-19 is somehow inherent to people of Asian descent, but we know pandemics have happened throughout our history, this is not the first one nor will it be our last and viruses do not care about ethnicity," Yeh said at the meeting.

She added people of Asian descent deserve to feel safe whether they are residents, students, or visitors. Section 1 of the adopted ordinance states the following:  

“The City Council denounces anti-Asian bigotry, and all hateful speech, violent action and the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 that casts blame, promotes racism or discrimination or harms the people of Asian descent, immigrant, or other communities.”

 

All eight Eugene City Councilors voted to adopt the resolution that denounces anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19 while also declaring May Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. Not pictured is Councilor Greg Evans who attended the virtual meeting without a camera.
Credit City of Eugene

The resolution also states the city will work to ensure current and future COVID-19 response and recovery efforts are equitable.

Leading up to the final 8-0 vote, councilors Mike Clark, Alan Zelenka, Claire Syrett, Chris Pryor, and Mayor Lucy Vinis all commented in support of the ordinance.

 

Clark, in his remark, said he hopes people understand the difference between criticizing the Chinese government and discrimination.

 

“One can be critical of [China’s] policies...of how they behave as a government, and as a nation," he said. "While entirely being able to separate and say people of Chinese descent and Asian Americans in our country deserve the respect and the treatment that anybody else would be entitled to."

While Councilors Zelenka and Syrett praised the efforts of Evans and Yeh, they also noted the end of May is fast approaching.

 

“My only regret is that we didn’t do this a month ago...it is really important that we make this statement," Syrett said.

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