Viruses Don’t Discriminate
This week, President Trump stoked the flames of racism and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans when he referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.” This kind of shameful rhetoric spreads discrimination and misinformation. The truth is that viruses do not discriminate—they can affect anyone, no matter your race, national origin, ethnic background, age, or gender.
The type of hateful and discriminatory language used by President Trump also fuels physical violence. Reports indicate there has been a rise in racist-fueled violence and hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans in recent weeks as COVID-19 has spread. Prejudice and violence are always unacceptable, but especially in this difficult and stressful time. We must pull together to protect our loved ones, coworkers, and neighbors and spread compassion.
The District has strong civil rights laws that protect residents from discrimination. Here is more information about those protections and how you can help stop COVID-19 stigma:
What types of discrimination should we look out for during the COVID-19 emergency?
We should look out discrimination based on someone’s real or perceived race, national origin and age. District law prohibits discrimination based on 21 protected traits, including race, national origin, and age, in education, employment, housing, and places of public accommodation.
What are some examples of illegal discrimination Asians, Asian Americans or seniors might experience?
- Refusing to provide publicly available services to Asians or Asian Americans that are otherwise available to others (e.g., Not providing transportation, barring entrance into a grocery store, refusing medical treatment)
- Firing or suspending Asians and Asian Americans from work due to their race or national origin
- Refusing to allow Asian or Asian American students to participate in education to the same degree as their non-Asian peers
- Refusing to rent to Asians or Asian Americans
- Seniors may also experience many of the same kinds of unlawful discrimination in public accommodation, employment and housing because they are older and perceived to be more susceptible to COVID-19
- Providing services or extended services to individuals based upon their age (for example providing extended shopping hours for the elderly)
How can I report suspected discrimination?
If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, you may report it to OAG by:
- Calling OAG at (202) 727-3400
- Emailing OAG’s Civil Rights Section at OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
- Filling out an online form
- Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 441 4th Street N.W., Suite 630S, Washington, D.C. 20001
The District’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) is the primary District agency that investigates individual complaints of discrimination. You can also file a complaint with OHR by calling (202) 727-4559 or filling out their online complaint form.
How can I help stop stigma surrounding COVID-19?
Viruses don't discriminate and neither should we. Here are some easy ways we can all spread facts and compassion—not misinformation and fear:
- Remember that COVID-19 doesn’t recognize race, age, nationality, or ethnicity. COVID-19 does not discriminate, and neither should we.
- Understand that people who wear masks are not necessarily ill—some health workers and people with health conditions may wear masks as an extra way to protect themselves.
- Share accurate information.
- Speak up if you see, hear, or read discriminatory comments.
- Show compassion and support for those most impacted.
- You can help share these messages by sharing the D.C. Department of Health’s graphic found below.