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Upper Arlington’s Asian Community Responds to Lt. Gov. Husted’s use of ‘Wuhan Virus’

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Upper Arlington’s Asian Community Responds to Lt. Gov. Husted’s use of ‘Wuhan Virus’Photo by Jason Leung.
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Individuals and families of Upper Arlington’s Asian Community have signed a letter to Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted in response to tweet last week in which the Lt. Governor, who is an Upper Arlington resident, shared an unfounded claim regarding the origins of COVID-19.

The tweet links to an Axios article on a claim made by former CDC Director Robert Redfield, where he says he believes the coronavirus “escaped” from a Wuhan lab but does not offer evidence when making the claim. Husted states, “So it appears it was the Wuhan Virus after all?” The tweet sparked over a thousand comments largely criticizing the post.

The criticism comes amidst a rise in assaults and hate crimes against Asian Americans, including a mass shooting in Atlanta that took the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

“I’m American born but my family and I spent time in an internment camp. The weight and harm of that is long-lasting,” said Karen Jiobu, a 40-year Upper Arlington resident and former executive director of Asian American Community Services who signed the letter, along with nearly 70 other members and families.

“I’ve devoted my heart to making sure that this stops. Unfortunately, the targeting of my community is happening again in my lifetime and that falls very heavily,” she said.

The letter, writers say, is not meant to incite or rouse, but “open a dialogue that we hope can make Upper Arlington a better place for our families.”

Upper Arlington has seen its own racially-charged incidents amid the coronavirus pandemic, including last year when students at Barrington Elementary School played a game called “coronavirus tag” that was targeted towards Asian students, NBC4 reported.

“The statistics nationally are felt on a local level. Many of us are worried about the health and safety of our children,” said Nidhi Satiani, another Upper Arlington resident who signed the letter. “We need prominent members of our community, like Jon Husted, to acknowledge the real hurt and fear we are facing while pledging to work harder to keep us safe.”

Lt. Governor Husted has not given an apology and has since defended the comment as “his opinion.”

This week, the Upper Arlington City Council released a statement in support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

“We can no longer fuel the flames of interpersonal and structural racism. Action must be taken to make sure the cycle of these incidents is finally put to a stop,” read the statement. “As a city, Upper Arlington is committed to not only promoting a more diverse and accepting community but one where all of our residents can feel safe and protected.”

Read the letter in full below.

Dear Mr. Husted:

We, the undersigned, are writing to you today as parents of Asian children in Upper Arlington schools and members of Upper Arlington’s growing Asian and Asian American community. We are reaching out to you regarding your recent tweets concerning the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the use of the invective “Wuhan Virus.”

While much has been reported on the stunning increase in violence towards Asians and Asian Americans nationally in the last year, we wish to highlight concerns that exist directly within our own community of Upper Arlington, specifically targeted towards children. Our children have been targeted for bullying and abuse in the district well before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that abuse has increased significantly in the last 14 months and has reached levels that have brought news media attention to our doorsteps.

Our children are the classmates, friends, and neighbors of your children.

Lt. Governor Husted, your choice of words has only raised the anxiety and fear that Asians and Asian Americans in Upper Arlington are currently experiencing. We want to believe that you did not have as your goal to make your neighbors feel even more frightened and even more vulnerable. So, we are sharing our fear with you. Many of us fear the verbal abuse that our children and family members experience will soon escalate to physical violence against them, and we are incapable of protecting them from this. As Lt. Governor, you are uniquely positioned to represent and protect the interests and safety of all Ohioans. As a resident of Upper Arlington, and our Lt. Governor, you are uniquely situated and have the power to take action to protect the families of our community. To protect all of our families.

We respectfully extend the invitation to meet personally to discuss the issues of violence and hatred towards Ohio’s Asian and Asian American citizens. Our purpose is not to inflame, but to open a dialogue that we hope can make Upper Arlington a better place for our families. Ultimately, we would welcome partnering with you to expand that message throughout the State of Ohio. We are all Ohioans and Buckeyes, and so much stronger together.

Members and Families of Upper Arlington’s Asian and Asian American Community
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