Pan Asian Council's Statement on COVID-19

Authored on:

May 05, 2020
color headshot of Ashley Cheyemi Rae McNeil

Ashley Cheyemi McNeil, the Humanities for the Public Good Post-Doctoral Fellow and our Obermann colleague, is a member of the Pan Asian Council and was central to the development of a statement regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the local Asian and Asian American communities. We asked Ashley to share some background on the statement, as well as a link (found at the bottom of this article) for Signatures of Solidarity. Thank you, Ashley, for your work on this important issue. We are so grateful for your work to make our campus a more just and hospitable one. 

At the end of March 2020, as the University of Iowa transitioned to online-only facilitation of teaching and convening, the Pan Asian Council (PAC) decided to write and publish a public statement to address the ways that the novel coronavirus was affecting the many Asian Pacific Islander Desi American communities both at UI and across the United States. As the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed any other countries’ count in the world, the Pan Asian Council recognized that fear-based discourse would continue to swell and mutate into xenophobic reactions that would herald a new and extreme wave of anti-Asian discrimination and violence.

Balancing the immediate need to stand against the racism and hate crimes spiking throughout Asian and Asian American communities with the responsibility to be thorough, precise, and clear to the public, PAC council members came together quickly and diligently—often in evening and weekend hours—to prepare their public response to COVID-19. PAC council members met virtually to determine the framework and goals of the statement, which also served as their first concerted effort as a newly formed Diversity Council (their “grand opening” social was held just a couple months prior in January).

Ultimately, the public statement serves many intentions: 1) condemn the anti-Asian discrimination instigated by COVID-19 and declare our stance as a Provost’s Diversity Council in rejecting the ways COVID-19 is racialized; 2) explain the scientific nomenclature of COVID-19 as a means of disincentivizing bigotry; 3) educate readers about the historical roots of U.S. anti-Asian prejudices; 4) bring to light the various and different ways APIDA communities experience the pandemic; 5) provide resources to specifically support the Asian communities proximate to the University of Iowa, and 6) offer an opportunity for others to publicly support the statement.

Visit the Pan Asian Council website to read the full statement and view Signatures in Solidarity. If you would like to publicly commit to rejecting racist acts and attitudes instigated by fears and misinformation about COVID-19 toward any community by adding your signature, please complete this form