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Michigan politicians react to Biden administration's order combating racism toward Asian communities

Xenophobia, hate crimes increased amid the pandemic
Joe Biden
Posted at 4:16 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 18:17:22-05

(WXYZ) — President Biden has signed an executive order directing federal agencies to combat racism against Asian American communities amid the pandemic. The goal is to end xenophobia and hate crimes.

This comes as many Michiganders speak out against comments made by Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey that many have called racist.

Shirkey is being criticized for the comments he made about his battle with COVID-19 on a TV show last week.

“The Chinese Flu Army sent in one of their best soldiers. His name was ‘Rona.’ I’m not as young as I used to be. So, he and I wrestled eight or ten days but I finally pinned him,” Shirkey said on the Bart Hawkeye Show on JTV.

Some say the words Shirkey used to describe the coronavirus feeds anti-Asian rhetoric.

The World Health Organization has said for years that terms related to diseases should avoid geographic regions or cultures.

“What you say matters and that by calling something an ethnic name or a country name, you are giving basically an opportunity for people to scapegoat and to target communities,” said Sen. Stephani Chang.

Chang has been recently speaking out in favor of Biden signing this executive order and against Shirkey’s comments. She and Shirkey talked about the words he used, but she didn’t give more details about that.

“It was a very respectful conversation, I will say,” Chang said.

The organization Rising Voices of Asian American Families called Shirkey’s words racist and are demanding an apology.

That group and others also spoke out against terms used by former President Trump, such as “Kung Flu.” This is concerning for many as organizations track the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

The group Stop AAPI Hate has received 2,800 incident reports from the start of the pandemic through the end of 2020.

Richard Mui is the President of APIA Vote Michigan.

“The comments have been a lot of ‘why don’t you go back to China, take the flu with you.’ Because they are unable to distinguish, they have truly been applied to all Asian Americans,” he explained.

Mui believes these hateful comments can lead to violence, especially when coming from elected officials.

“Words matter and that it really has an impact on people’s beliefs, and consequently their actions,” he added.

Many in the community also believe the number of hate crimes could actually be higher because Asian American victims may not be reporting the incidents.

To report a hate crime you can call:
* Michigan Attorney General Hate Crime Hotline 313-456-0200
* Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes:
1-800-482-3604
*Email: Mdcr-info@michigan.gov
Or go to: https://www.michigan.gov/mdcr/0,4613,7-138-42240_43561-153171--,00.html

7 Action News reached out Sen. Shirkey’s press secretary who said he is not available this evening for an interview but will be available to comment tomorrow during a media availability.