"What we need now is to empathize with and comfort each other"
The hashtag is being branded onto surgical masks, which have been a matter of contention recently.
Whilst face masks are commonly used in Asia to prevent the spread of infection, the adoption of their use has been slow in the west.
Instead, Asians in the west who wear masks are repeatedly met with contempt. In one instance, a Chinese woman was berated by a stranger for simply wearing a mask.
Last week, the CDC finally released a statement to encourage Americans to wear non-medical masks.
In an effort to combat the misperceptions of surgical masks, Michelle Hanabusa, founder of LA clothing brand UPRISERS, is selling masks with the hashtag on them.
“I used to refuse wearing masks when I was younger to avoid being made fun of,” she said. The hashtag “is meant to combat any of these stigmas.”
Despite the CDC’s announcement, activists are still concerned about how whether it will shift public perception.
“We are anxious to see if this announcement ultimately flattens or exacerbates these instances,” said Selina Guo, a New York advertising director at the firm ADMERASIA.
Guo said that masks have “been a polarizing object” according to data from racismiscontagious.com.
Activists behind the hashtag campaign are aiming to reduce the number of attacks on Asian Americans through their message.
“Masks have been a topic of huge debate,” said cofounder of Executive Alerts. “A lot of us have families in Asia, and our parents were worried that we weren’t wearing masks. But then on the other hand they saw news reports about racist attacks on people wearing masks.”
“The government urged people not to wear masks, and now it wants people to wear non-medical masks. That controversy shows what a powerful symbol they are.”
Bryan Pham, leader of Asian Hustle Network private group on Facebook, said the campaign “aims to increase awareness against racism and xenophobia while normalizing the need for Americans to wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19.”
Elle Korea is backing the campaign too, sharing an Instagram post to their 1.6 million followers.
“ELLE Korea supports #HATEISAVIRUS, which is a movement to combat racism and xenophobia against Asians fueled by COVID-19,” the caption reads.
“It’s a scary time for all of us. But this fear and anxiety can’t be an excuse for any discriminatory behaviour. What we need now is to empathize with and comfort each other.”
In related news, Korean American rapper Jay Park has condemned president Trump for “racial language” against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
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#HATEISAVIRUS 코로나19가 혐오와 차별로 번지고 있는 지금. 이방인 혐오인 ‘제노포비아’와 인종차별에 반대하는 움직임 #HATEISAVIRUS 를 엘르 코리아가 지지합니다❗️바이러스는 인종과 종교, 성적 취향을 가리지 않으며, 코로나19에 대한 공포와 불안감은 어떤 차별적 행동에 대한 변명도 될 수 없습니다🙅🏻♀️ 지금 우리에게 필요한 것은 비난과 폭력이 아니라 인류 공통의 질병에 공감하며 위로하는 #AloneTogether 의 자세입니다. – ELLE Korea supports #HATEISAVIRUS, which is a movement to combat racism and xenophobia against Asians fueled by COVID-19. It’s a scary time for all of us. But this fear and anxiety can’t be an excuse for any discriminatory behaviour. What we need now is to empathize with and comfort each other. #AloneTogether 📷 @hateisavirus_ @maskmessages 📱권민지, 이재희