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HRC Press Release: Coronavirus and Xenophobia


 Contact:           Bor Yang, Executive Director

                        Vermont Human Rights Commission

                        (802) 828-2480


MONTPELIER, Vermont. March 13, 2020.

Don’t let your fear about COVID-19 cloud your humanity.

The public health concern surrounding the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) has resulted in alarming hate crimes, discriminatory acts, bullying and stigmatization against Asian-Americans in towns and cities across the country. News outlets and social media have further perpetuated the stereotype that Asian-Americans are the carriers of this virus. The virus can be carried by any person of any race and ethnicity.

 As we deal with COVID-19, we would like to remind our Vermont communities to educate themselves with facts and resources, not stigma. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides resources, up-to-date information, and strict guidelines about how to protect ourselves and our community. The Vermont Department of Health website also contains up-to-date information about the state of COVID-19 in Vermont. 

 As a community we must respond to xenophobia and bullying when we see it. We must educate ourselves, our children and our community members about racism, stereotypes, hate crimes and bullying arising out of fear.

Here are some practical tools:

If you see a harassment or bullying incident, where safe and appropriate:

 Stand up to the perpetrator and be assertive. Educate them about their ignorance.

  1. Support the person being harmed by acknowledging that what is happening is not right and offer any support needed. Remember that you are standing up for your values and act accordingly.
  2. Record the incident.
  3. Report the incident to the police, the Attorney General’s Office and the Human Rights Commission.

If you have experienced harassment or discrimination related to COVID-19 contact the police, the Attorney General’s Office or the Human Rights Commission for resources and support. Do not stay silent.

 In Vermont, we stand united in the fight against COVID-19 and Racism:

Governor Scott: “I want to thank the Human Rights Commission for their ongoing work to protect and defend Vermonters against discrimination and bigotry. I urge all Vermonters to stay informed and focused on the facts. Hate and bigotry have no place in our society, and that is especially true as we all work together to address this new virus and support the health and safety of our communities, friends, families and neighbors.”

Bor Yang, Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission (HRC): “As we spread the message about cleaning our hands, we must also spread the message about racism. The HRC stands firmly behind our Asian-American community members and their right to live in an environment free from discrimination, bullying, harassment.  The HRC will accept and investigate all claims from those who are denied the right to access places of public accommodations, and/or who have been subjected to harassment at work, school or in their neighborhoods.”

Attorney General TJ Donovan: “Race and ethnicity have nothing to do with the COVID-19 virus. Anyone can catch it. Let’s do what we can to keep healthy and care for each other. Now is the time for Vermonters to come together as a community.” 

Daniel French, Secretary of the Agency of Education: "It is important that we work together and support one another during this challenging time. This virus, like any health condition, should not be a cause for discrimination or stigma. We must avoid the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and focus on ensuring all Vermonters remain healthy and safe."

Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, Director of the Vermont State Police: “Biases are dangerous; they misguide us, because they are based on incorrect assumptions and not on facts. The Vermont State Police seeks to ensure that residents and visitors in Vermont can go about their lives without becoming victims of hate-motivated crime. VSP works diligently every day to help prevent and reduce occurrences of crime, and to hold offenders accountable. We take seriously all reports of criminal activity, investigate matters with the urgency they require, and encourage people who believe they have been the victim of a bias-motivated crime to report the incident. Vermonters should not have to worry about crimes motivated by hate at any time, let alone when our communities are pulling together to face a difficult situation affecting the state, the country and the world equally.”

Tabitha Pohl-Moore, President of Rutland NAACP: “Fear and panic have always been catalysts for hate and discrimination.  We are seeing it now in the Rutland area and we must be as vigilant and committed to stopping the spread of racism and xenophobia that are popping up as we are to stopping the spread of the coronavirus itself.  Members of the Brandon community have been leading by example, opting to surround and protect those who are being targeted.  Offering support, resources and checking in regularly as well as re-educating those responsible is effective in mitigating and preventing more than one of kind of virus.  Xenophobia and racism have killed more people on this planet than this virus.  It is important to remember that and to respond as quickly and effectively whenever it comes up.  Calmer heads must prevail if we are win either battle.”