‘We are all in this together’: Wilmington mayor denounces accounts of racism, urges unity in facing COVID-19

‘We are all in this together’: Wilmington mayor denounces accounts of racism, urges unity in facing COVID-19

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Despite many displays of community support as life adjusts to the novel coronavirus, one elected official says he’s been made aware of an ugly side-effect of efforts to promote social distancing: racism.

“Over the course of the last couple of days I’ve received several phone calls and texts from folks that have shared with me personal things that have happened to them, where they felt there’s been some bias against them because of who they are or the part of the world they come from,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said Tuesday.

Without being specific, the mayor said he’s been approached about incidents that mirror those around the country where Asian Americans are being discriminated against, harassed or even targeted for violence as the pandemic has swept the nation.

That, Saffo said, is something the city will not tolerate.

“Obviously this virus started in a certain part of the world and we just want to tell everybody that we are all in this together,” he said. “We don’t want to see that anywhere.”

The incidents led the mayor to ask city staff to make a post on social media addressing the concerns.

As the city begins a period of at least two weeks under a local stay at home order, as well as a month of a statewide order, Saffo said he wants to urge the community to rally together, not tear itself apart.

“We all have to share responsibility, share values here and we are all going to come out of this together, but we all have to work together as a community, as a city,” he said.

A national problem

The mayor’s concern is shared by many, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which put out a warning that communities should be watchful for an uptick in hate crimes against those with Asian heritage.

On March 19, the the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and San Francisco Asian American Studies Department launched a platform where Asian Americans can report discrimination and harassment in the wake of COVID-19.

In just the first week, more than 750 reports were made on the platform, and in a different study conducted by the advocacy groups, 1,000 cases of hate crimes or publicly reported discrimination were documented in the early parts of 2020.

Other issues

Saffo said in addition to reports of racial discrimination, he’s been told of incidents involving people from out of state.

“It’s not only people that may have come from a different part of the world, but also maybe have traveled here from different parts of the country they feel that they have been biased, some bias has been put against them because of where they come from.” he said.

“Some of them are residents that have just moved here or live here, they have loved ones here that they are trying to take care of, so we just want to take it till the community, this is a community effort of all of us working together, the city and the county all of the municipalities together with the county our law enforcement, our first responders our healthcare workers, we are all in this together.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by discrimination in the wake of COVID-19, you can report the incident to the A3PCON platform here.

Additionally, incidents or potential hate crimes should be reported to local law enforcement as well as the FBI.

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