Asian American teen in L.A. assaulted over coronavirus

A Los Angeles County middle school student was allegedly assaulted last week amid fears over the new coronavirus.

The teen was reportedly bullied and assaulted because he is of Asian descent, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said at a press conference last Thursday.

“I am concerned because as someone who is also of immigrant background, I know what it means to face discrimination and racial profiling,” Solis said. “And when I heard of the recent incident of a young child being bullied and actually was assaulted because he was pointed out as being of Asian background — and children unfortunately repeat things that are said by other people, including their own parents, so we need to put a stop to that.”

The Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department declined to share further details with NBC News.

Solis also pointed out that there is only one known case of coronavirus in L.A. County, and that the person is being quarantined.

Xenophobia against Asian Americans has spread amid reports of COVID-19. Asian Americans have shared their experiences with coronavirus-related racism, ranging from racist comments to alleged physical attacks.

The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), which is made up of 40 community-based organizations that serve L.A.’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community, is supporting the child and his family through its member organizations that provide mental health services. The child and his family experienced anxiety and trauma from the incident, executive director Manjusha Kulkarni said.

“What I can say is that I understand that the family feels assured now that they have the support of Angelenos, the support of their communities and the support of civic leaders, and I think that’s comforting to the family,” Kulkarni said. “It is our understanding that the child is physically okay, but there can continue to be trauma and other adverse mental health consequences coming out of this, and I think the family is doing their best to address those.”

She said other members of the community have also expressed fears over being physically and verbally assaulted. Kulkarni said A3PCON wanted to offer its services to AAPIs in Los Angeles so they knew that help was available.

She said she’s heard of other racially-fueled incidents, but that this was especially concerning because the child was physically assaulted.

“I was certainly surprised and shocked,” Kulkarni said. “It seemed like really, I think, an area of great concern for us, and we didn’t know how far these types of incidents had escalated.”

Kulkarni emphasized that A3PCON is especially concerned about the xenophobia that has come with the rise of the disease, and that the organization sees it as being connected to past attacks on the AAPI community, from the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1800s, to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on China. She said that with the novel coronavirus outbreak, some past tropes of Asian Americans being labeled as “filthy” or “unclean” are popping back up.

“We think it’s important to connect those dots so people see that this is not new, and that as we address it, we should go with an understanding of American history,” Kulkarni said.