“Movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.” -Grace Lee Boggs
As we’re facing a once-in-a-generation crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important now than ever to center human connections and be a part of a movement for community care. This means that while we are experiencing physical distance from our communities, the compassion and love we have for each other remains strong.
During this crisis, our communities are being targeted and scapegoated, with GOP politicians referencing COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” and numerous incidents of hate crimes against Asians. We’ve seen this before. Throughout history, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been oppressed, harmed, and even killed due to our race. But time and time again, we have prevailed from these hardships by taking care of each other.
We come from peoples who have survived and flourished despite war, colonization, and environmental catastrophe. As working-class Asian American immigrants, refugees, and Pacific Islanders, our people have survived and thrived by putting community care over individual needs. We see this in elderly folks who sacrifice their time in retirement to raise their grandchildren. We see this in community members pooling money together to form community-based loan systems to combat discrimination from banks. When employers won’t grant workers adequate time off, we see workers sharing their sick leave with colleagues so that they can care for themselves and their loved ones.
We have been trained to adapt an individualistic mindset that tells us that we have to fend for ourselves. But we must remember that during the most devastating moments, community care, not hyper-individualism, is what allows us to prevail.
Despite experiencing physical isolation, we’re witnessing the power and beauty of compassion and community care. We’ve seen neighbors offering to watch each other’s children as schools close, community members delivering groceries for elders, loved ones celebrating birthdays via video chat and organizers collaborating to push for policy changes that would protect our most vulnerable populations.
Due to safety concerns about congregating in person, we may not be able to show care through physical convening and touch, but there are other ways to show love:
Reach out and talk to elders and immunocompromised people who are housebound and who may be experiencing loneliness from social isolation.
Participate in mutual aid networks like the ones in Seattle or Oakland and volunteer your time or donate money/supplies to those in need. If you can’t find a mutual aid network in your area, you can build your own or simply post what labor/goods you’re willing to offer in local neighborhood groups. Offering to make a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy could go a long way for someone in a vulnerable group.
Donate to community care funds like the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s Fund and APEN’s fund for Asian immigrant families. Many community members will face a loss in income and/or employment, and these funds will help them mitigate the impacts.
Fill out the 2020 Census and remind others to fill out the Census. Funding for local health clinics and programs like Medicaid — which are essential in crises like this one — is determined by Census responses. Asians are the least likely of any racial group to fill out the Census. And the U.S. Census Bureau offers no language support for Pacific Islander languages, leaving states and community organizations to fill the gap. To get care for our communities, we must fill out the Census ourselves and encourage others to do so.
Advocate for emergency policy changes regarding paid sick leave, moratorium on evictions, easier access to prescription medications for disabled people, small business relief, protection for incarcerated populations, and access to healthcare for all regardless of immigration status. Join our mailing list for an update on policy actions you can sign on to support.
As an organization working to build power amongst working class AAPIs, we recognize that working class communities will be some of the most heavily hit during this crisis. Workers such as servers, sanitation workers, manicurists, etc. may experience financial difficulties due to a cut in hours.
Here are resources to help with labor issues:
It’s especially crucial right now to stay informed and avoid spreading misinformation. Here are some resources in English and other languages to share about COVID-19:
This is the time to come together — not physically, but through our actions. Community care doesn’t just look like participating in mutual aid or donating funds — it also looks like adhering to physical distancing regulations. By exchanging a trip to the gym or a night out with friends for a quiet night in or a celebration via video chat, we are actively working against the spread of the virus. We are all capable of contracting and spreading the virus, but we are also all capable of keeping our communities safe. We will do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will demand that our government protect not just us, but the most vulnerable in our community. Even if we’re not out on the streets protesting, we are still looking out for each other and fighting for justice.