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Asian Americans See Support During Outbreak In ABQ Despite Some Racist Reactions

City Councilor Lan Sena speaks after being sworn in on March 13, with her parents, refugees from Vietnam, standing behind her. Lan is the first Asian American to sit on the Albuquerque City Council.

Since the coronavirus reached the U.S. after being first detected in China last year, there’s been a spike in cases of xenophobia and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans across the nation. Albuquerque’s newest city councilor Lan Sena met with local Asian American community leaders this week to hear concerns and offer support. 

Recent incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans in Albuquerque included people being denied services, businesses losing patronage, and hateful graffiti, says City Councilor Lan Sena, who was appointed by Mayor Tim Keller this month after former Councilor Ken Sanchez passed away in January.

“I’ve heard of two cases of actual physical assault," said Sena. "I’m hearing from the community that there are two cases both of elderly Asian women being assaulted while grocery shopping.”

Sena urged people to report any further incidents of xenophobia or discrimination to the City of Albuquerque's Office of Civil Rights. She added that despite the ignorance and racism from some, it’s been heartening to see community members come together and support one another during the outbreak.

"All of the Vietnamese seniors are helping one another and making sure they have all the necessities," said Sena. "Other businesses that are even closing, they say, 'hey, if a lot of the elderly community can’t get to these foods, or even if they’re not culturally appropriate for them,' that they’ll step up. They have all these foods that will go to waste, so they don't mind helping the community where it's needed. And so, you know, that’s the real spirit of Albuquerque."

After President Trump wrongly and repeatedly used racist terms to refer to the disease, multiple national journalism organizations have condemned the use of such racist language to refer to the coronavirus or COVID-19.

Health officials worry that stigma like this could discourage people from coming forward with symptoms and lead to more unchecked cases of the virus. 


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and from KUNM listeners like you.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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