May 23, 2021

Why It’s the Time to #StopAsianHate

Since COVID-19 first reached the U.S., the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has been experiencing escalating violence. On March 16, 2021, eight people were fatally shot in Atlanta, GA, by a gunman targeting Asian spas. In New York City (NYC) alone, the New York Police Department reports a 1,900% spike in violence against the AAPI community.

Not too far from me, Natty Jumreornvong, an Asian-American medical student, was called “Chinese Virus” before she was physically attacked on her way to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She was one of several individuals in my community who came to me with stories of microagressions, harassment and even assaults over the last year. Even AAPI healthcare workers serving on the COVID frontline are being treated as if we brought the virus and are subject to violence.

Anti-Asian sentiment is not new. However, years of anti-China political rhetoric and resentment related to COVID has caused AAPIs to become the new scapegoat. Racism is also a public health crisis. As health professionals, part of the global pandemic relief effort, we need to recognize when racism is also affecting the populations we serve and work alongside.

In March after the shootings, I rallied over 100 NYC-area doctors and allied healthcare professionals at Manhattan’s APPI Rally Against Hate. Many of us were members of White Coats for Black Lives in medical school and were inspired to create the first White Coat Frontline for the AAPI community.

 Michelle Lee, MD, speaks to the crowd at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Rally Against Hate
Michelle Lee, MD, speaks to the crowd at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Rally Against Hate in Manhattan, NY, March 21, 2021. Photo credit: Michael R. Cai, MD. 


Natty Jumreornvong went to the local newspaper, which declined to cover her hate crime. Together, we spoke to over 3,000 community members urging for solidarity against escalating violence, getting coverage from Associated Press, Gothamist, ABC News, Washington Post, L.A. Times, U.S. World News and Now This News. We aim to raise awareness of anti-AAPI racism and violence within our spaces and condemn all acts of racism and gender-based violence.

My hope is that the ACR continues to uphold its commitment to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and urge members to consider taking action with the following:

  • Creating safe spaces for patients, faculty, staff and trainees to express threats they have received with a zero-tolerance policy for racism.
  • Identifying implicit biases and taking the time to learn more about the history of racial discrimination against the AAPI community.
  • Implementing anti-racist education at all levels of training.
  • Cultivating a culture of transparency, acknowledging any institutional history of racism.
  • Amplifying voices of BIPOC in personal and professional settings.
  • Seeking bystander intervention training to interrupt and report hate incidents.