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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Guest Column Mary Russell
I attended a gathering in Iowa City on March 21 to support Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in this challenging time. They encouraged us to call our friends in these groups and offer support. I did that, and my dear friend shared how sad and scared she has been; she has been afraid to leave her home. I asked her what I can do, and she asked me to write to my congressional representatives and encourage them to support the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
Dear Iowa U.S. Congressional Delegation:
Thank you for your service to Iowa and our country. In thinking about your legacy, I am sure you’ve considered the mark of the Trump administration and also the future of the Republican Party. I’m writing to address a bill that has significance in both of those areas.
I am writing to ask for your support for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and any other legislation supporting our Asian and Pacific Islander American friends during a very challenging time for them in our country. My life has been enriched by my friendships and work collaborations with members of these groups, and it saddens me to know that they are suffering from fear for their safety in our country. I want them to assured that the leadership of our country will do all they can to protect their safety.
I would not usually see it as necessary for lawmakers to protect a specific group in a different way than other victims of violence in this country. The difference in this situation, though, is that the talking points of our nation’s leadership throughout the pandemic have encouraged recent violence against these groups. Our previous president repeatedly referred to the virus as the “China Virus” to direct our nation’s natural frustrations in the pandemic toward this specific and vulnerable group of people. There have been 3,795 reports of hate incidents against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the past year. (Report, Stop AAPI Hate, 2021.) Because our leaders have actively encouraged this violence, our other leaders need to take decisive action to avoid being complicit in their colleagues’ actions and these acts of violence.
This would also be a wonderful opportunity for the Republican Party to broaden its tent and stand boldly with people of color in our country. As an attorney and a student of history, I believe that our two-party system provides a balance to our public discourse and public policy. I am especially grateful to the Republican Party for its historical contribution of fiscal conservatism to this discourse and policy. However, in order to remain viable as a political party and contribute these principles going forward, the Republican Party must actively support people of color. As Stuart Stevens wrote:
The Republican Party “remains the official party of a white governing class in America … [b]ut how long can a political party that is defined as a white party cling to power in a country changing as rapidly as America? The proper perspective in contemplating the future of the Republican Party is not that of the Whigs or the Bull Moose Party but rather that of a colonial power in a foreign land. Like the Raj, unless the party changes, its future is determined, with only the question of how long until the decline becomes a rout and it collapses inward like a dying star.” It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, p. 199 (2020).
Mary Russell lives in Iowa City.