As a Korean national studying in the US, I’ve seen how racism in America affects Asians around the globe

Stop Asian Hate Women
Protesters hold signs saying “Stop Asian Hate” after the Atlanta shooting.

  • The Atlanta shooting showed the world that racism in America is no longer an exclusively American issue.
  • The term “Asian American” is rooted in the solidarity movements of the 1960s.
  • That history should propel us towards a sense of transnational Asian solidarity.
  • Jimin Kang is a writer and student at Princeton University originally from South Korea and Hong Kong.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Before I came to the United States for college, I had never considered myself a person of color. Nor did I think of myself as generically “Asian.” I was a South Korean who’d grown up in Hong Kong – belonging to two places where, as far as skin color went, I had always been part of the racial majority.

Four years after my arrival, there isn’t a day where I don’t think about the color of my skin. And recent events have made me warier than usual. After six Asian women – four of them of Korean heritage – were murdered in Atlanta by a gunman purported to have a sex addiction, millions of Asian Americans in the United States were furious and aggrieved by how anti-Asian violence has been underplayed for years, despite the longstanding pressure points of colonial history, reductive stereotyping, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic.

It isn’t just Asian Americans who are grieving, nor just Americans. The fact of the matter is that racism in America is no longer an exclusively American issue, particularly for those who are not white.

For the global Asian community, the Atlanta shooting has been the wake-up call to a reality that Black and Latino people have known for years: that national identity is irrelevant when it comes to racial trauma. The compartmentalization of identity across national lines no longer serves us, because, as the randomness of identity-based violence shows us time and time again, those who suffer from it could be any of us.

Identifying as Asian American

As an Asian person currently living in America, I’ve often reflected on the distinctions between Asian Americans and “Asian Asians” in this country – the latter category for Asian people who, despite not being US citizens, feel a strong affinity to the US for reasons ranging from work and education to family and love. The distinction is often subtle, even arbitrary: there are Asians who are American but spend most of their lives living abroad, and Asians who aren’t American but spend most of their lives in America. Beyond the legal matter of citizenship, using the “American” suffix can be, in many cases, a matter of self-identification.

Historically, the usage of the term “Asian American” was a way for people of different ethnicities to signal solidarity across national lines. Before the term was first coined in 1968 by two students at the University of California Berkeley – who were inspired by the Black Power Movement to encourage unity in the fight for racial justice – most Americans of Asian descent would refer to themselves by their nationalities.

In other words, to be Asian American has always been more than an identity – to wear the label was initially an attempt to “express an idea,” Daryl Maeda, a professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told NBC News. “And that idea is that as Asian Americans, we have to work together to fight for social justice and equality, not only for ourselves, but for all of the people around us.”

In the decades since, the term Asian American has become part of the mainstream American lexicon. But it may be worthwhile to return to thinking about it not as an inherited identity, but rather an idea whose lessons are applicable even to those outside the country.

America’s racism affects all of us

In the last four years, I’ve had to redefine my experience of Asianness as an international student temporarily based in the United States, where the inevitable process of becoming a person of color has been alternately illuminating and difficult. I remember how, during my freshman year, I’d inadvertently begun attributing my racial identity to unexplainable feelings of apprehension or self-doubt.

One day, when I felt small and out of place in a seminar, I realized I was the only non-white person in the room. At parties, I’d wonder if no one was noticing me because I was Asian and thus, according to Hollywood conventions, less attractive. But on other occasions, I’d reflexively wonder if any sign of romantic interest from another person was directly related to my Asianness. Instances like these would occur repeatedly over the three years that followed, even in a college where close to a third of students identify as Asian, in a town where Asians make up the second largest ethnic group.

My parents, who have never spent more than two weeks in the United States, have had to learn these painful lessons from Seoul, South Korea. When the coronavirus pandemic first began, my dad would warn me against walking around alone, afraid I’d be harassed. For months, my mom has implored me to switch up my running routes in case I become an easy target for a stranger’s fit of race-based rage. These narratives of violence are very real to them, although neither of them has ever considered themself a person of color; to them these words are unfamiliar lingo, imported by a daughter far from home.

More than ever before, news of America’s racial tensions is available in their language, on the websites they visit, and in the news they follow. The constant availability of international news, in tandem with the harsh spotlight shone on America since the Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidency, has meant that America’s issues have become personal to them, too.

For the record, South Korea is one of the most racially homogenous places in the world. And yet, I find it astonishing that increasingly, more and more people there know what it means to be a person of color. South Koreans understand that, in the United States, you might be considered Chinese or Japanese in addition to being Korean. It’s become unsettlingly common for broad generalizations to replace specific national identities, leading us to understand that the ways in which we self-identify – especially in a foreign country – will not always protect us.

When I learned about the shootings, the first people on my mind were an Atlanta-based Korean couple I’d met in Seoul last summer, who’d told me how much they loved their city and its vibrant Korean American community. Any of the women who’d been shot could’ve been their parents or in-laws, I thought. It could’ve been them. And then I realized that, had I gone to school in Atlanta, it could’ve been me; had my parents migrated to the United States like Koreans have done in large numbers since 1960, it could’ve been them, too.

The past few weeks have been unimaginably painful for Asian Americans across the world who know the United States as their constant and permanent home. It is a pain that I, as a foreign national, can’t claim to know with the same intensity. But the burden of dismantling racial violence does not fall on American shoulders alone.

To learn of the shootings in Atlanta is to remind ourselves that the duty to care is not restricted to our inherited identities. To say the victims’ names – Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue; Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng – is to know that grief can be felt in many places, in many languages. This tragedy is personal to all of us, wherever and whoever we are.

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GOP lawmakers stopped endorsing a congressional candidate who said Chinese immigrants aren’t welcome ‘at all’

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Sery Kim, on the left, speaks during a panel discussion at the AFI Docs “Film and Politics Boot Camp” Presented By Audi on June 20, 2013, in Washington, DC.

  • A candidate running for a vacant congressional seat in Texas has lost two GOP endorsements.
  • Sery Kim, who’s Korean American, made anti-Asian remarks, leading two California reps to revoke their support.
  • She said she does not want Chinese immigrants in the US “at all.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sery Kim, a candidate running for the 6th congressional district in Texas, has lost two GOP endorsements after news that she made anti-Asian remarks.

In early March, Sery Kim, who is Korean American, received the backing of California Republican Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel. The two have since dropped their endorsement, following Sery Kim’s comments earlier this week, in which she said Chinese immigrants aren’t welcome in the US.

During a GOP candidate forum on Wednesday, Sery Kim and others running talked about China’s influence and immigrants who come to the US from China.

“I don’t want them here at all,” Sery Kim said about Chinese immigrants, to applause from the audience. “They steal our intellectual property. They give us coronavirus. They don’t hold themselves accountable.”

“Quite frankly, I can say that because I’m Korean.”

In a statement, the two California lawmakers said they “cannot in good conscience” continue to back Sery Kim.

“As the first Korean American Republican women to serve in Congress, we want to empower and lift up fellow members of the AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Island] community who want to serve their communities,” the lawmakers wrote.

They asked Sery Kim to apologize for her remarks, saying they “talked with Sery Kim yesterday about her hurtful and untrue comments about Chinese immigrants, and made clear that her comments were unacceptable.”

Sery Kim has not “publicly shown remorse, and her words were contrary to what we stand for,” they said, also adding that the two “will continue to speak out in support of our AAPI community.”

Sery Kim, speaking to CNN, said her remarks were intended only with respect to the Chinese Communist Party.

“I am shocked that in an effort to counter Asian-American hate the liberal media is targeting me, an Asian and an immigrant, in an effort to paint me as anti-Asian and anti-immigrant just for speaking against the oppressive Chinese Communist Party,” Sery Kim said in a statement to CNN. She did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Sery Kim’s comments come at the same time as numerous anti-Asian attacks unfold.

Just on Monday, a 65-year-old Asian woman was assaulted and yelled at in broad daylight on a New York City sidewalk. Her assailant, 38-year-old Brandon Elliot, kicked her to the ground and stomped on her head repeatedly while two doormen in a luxury apartment watched, security footage released by the police shows. When Elliot walked away, the doormen closed the apartment doors on her.

Nationally, recent stories related to anti-Asian violence also paint a grim picture.

Two weeks ago, police arrested a man in connection to a string of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Six out of eight of the victims were Asian women. Each attack had taken place at three massage parlors within an hour of one another on Tuesday.

The shooter, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, Georgia, suggested to police that the attacks were due to a sex addiction and were not racially motivated.

Sery Kim is running to take the seat left open by the deceased Rep. Ron Wright. She had previously worked in the Small Business Administration in the era of former President Donald Trump.

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Nearly 2,000 New Yorkers have signed up to voluntarily escort Asian Americans to their destination amid hate crimes

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Demonstrators march during a protest against Asian hate on Times Square in New York, the United States, March 20, 2021.

  • About 1,800 New Yorkers are volunteering with SafeWalks to escort Asian Americans from a public area.
  • The volunteers signed up in response to a surge in anti-Asian violence across both New York and the US.
  • Most recently, a 65-year-old Asian woman on Monday was assaulted in broad daylight on a New York City sidewalk.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than 1,800 New Yorkers have signed up to walk Asian Americans from any public area to their destination in an effort to combat and prevent anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.

Volunteers – many of whom speak Mandarin or Cantonese – are patrolling New York City neighborhoods like Chinatown and offering escorting services to anyone who asks for their help, Pix11 News reported.

The initiative is part of SafeWalks NYC, started in January after a string of attacks on women in the subway.

Volunteers, Pix11 News reports, give out flyers and wear bright safety belts. Each shift lasts two hours. A fundraiser to support the SafeWalks initiative has raised about $17,000 since it was posted to GoFundMe in February.

“We need to show our humanity. We can’t let people hurt our seniors, our elders,” volunteer Lisa Gold told Pix11 News.

Anti-Asian violence has surged

In recent weeks, there have been numerous anti-Asian attacks in New York City.

Just on Monday, a 65-year-old Asian woman was assaulted and yelled at on a New York City sidewalk. Her assailant, 38-year-old Brandon Elliot, kicked her to the ground and stomped on her head repeatedly while two doormen in a luxury apartment watched, security footage released by the police shows. When Elliot walked away, the doormen closed the apartment doors on her.

Nationally, recent stories related to anti-Asian violence also paint a grim picture.

Two weeks ago, police arrested a man in connection to a string of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Six out of eight of the victims were Asian women. Each attack had taken place at three massage parlors within an hour of one another on Tuesday.

The shooter, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, Georgia, suggested to police that the attacks were due to a sex addiction and were not racially motivated.

Multiple research studies have identified that the number of anti-Asian crimes and violence have spiked in the last year.

An analysis from Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, for example, found hate crimes overall decreased by 7% in 2020. That same study found that hate crimes specifically against Asian people rose by about 150%.

Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit tracking violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, released a report that identified nearly 3,800 instances of anti-Asian discrimination just in the past year.

And that’s a very mild estimate, Stop AAPI hate said in its report.

“The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face,” the report says.

“Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now,” a press release from Stop AAPI Hate said. “Anything else is unacceptable.”

Pedestrians in New York who want to request a safe escort or to volunteer can do so on the SafeWalks website, by emailing request@safewalx.com, or by DMing the @SafeWalksNYC handle on Instagram.

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YouTube reportedly refused to take down a song about robbing homes in a ‘Chinese neighborhood,’ infuriating employees

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A man walks past a billboard advertisement for YouTube on October 5, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

YouTube refused to remove a song that talks about performing armed robbery in “Chinese neighborhoods” because they “don’t believe in bank accounts,” Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

YouTube sent an email to employees that said the firm found the song – rapper YG’s “Meet the Flockers” – highly offensive and hard to watch, but chose to keep the video up, according to Bloomberg.

The song, which was released in 2014, begins with the line: “First, you find a house and scope it out. Find a Chinese neighborhood, ’cause they don’t believe in bank accounts.”

In the email, YouTube said the firm chooses to keep videos that violate hate speech policy for educational and artistic purposes. Comedy routines and news stories depicting violent footage, for instance, can remain on the platform.

“Removing this video would have far-reaching implications for other musical content containing similarly violent or offensive lyrics, in genres ranging from rap to rock,” the letter read, per Bloomberg’s report.

Read more: We identified the 194 most powerful people at Google under CEO Sundar Pichai. Check out our exclusive org chart.

Bloomberg reported that employees in message boards pushed back on YouTube’s decision, prompting the company to hold a townhall to discuss the issue.

A YouTube representative did not confirm the company sent the letter cited in Bloomberg’s story, but told Insider that it “has an open culture and employees are encouraged to to share their views, even when they disagree with a decision.”

“We’ll continue this dialogue as part of our ongoing work to balance openness with protecting the YouTube community at large,” the spokesperson added.

Asian-American hate crimes in 16 US cities increased 149% in 2020, according to an analysis of police data by researchers at California State University in San Bernardino. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of groups tracking violence incidents, reported 3,795 incidents of verbal or physical attacks against Asian-Americans between March 2020 and February 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, police said a suspect punched and kicked a 65-year-old Asian woman on her way to church in New York City. Security footage revealed a security guard closed the door of a nearby building instead of helping the woman.

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‘Is this patriot enough?’ Asian-American Army veteran protests racism by displaying wounds from military service during a town hall meeting

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Lee Wong shows off his scars at a meeting in West Chester Township, on March 23, 2020.

  • An Asian-American Army veteran showed his scars in a board meeting to prove his patriotism.
  • Ohio township trustee Lee Wong used his speech to criticize anti-Asian violence.
  • The impromptu moment came after several racially-motivated attacks against Asian-Americans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An Asian-American government official revealed his military scars during a town hall meeting on Tuesday to protest the recent wave of racially-motivated attacks in the country.

During a meeting of the West Chester Township, Ohio, Board of Trustees, chairman Lee Wong, 69, lifted his shirt and showed his scars to prove his “patriotism,” NBC News reported. Wong served in the US Army for 20 years.

Footage of the moment, which has gone viral on social media, shows Wong unbuttoning his shirt while speaking about how tired he is of the Anti-Asian rhetoric he’s witnessed in America.

“Don’t get me wrong, people love me in this community and I love them, too, but there are some ignorant people that would come up to me and say that I don’t look American enough or patriotic enough,” Wong says in the video, according to the BBC. “I’m not afraid. I don’t have to live in fear.”

The 69-year-old then stands up and raises his undershirt, revealing a big, dark scar across his chest.

“Here is my proof. This is sustained through my service in the U.S. military,” he says to the room. “Now, is this patriot enough?”

“Prejudice is hate, and that hate can be changed,” Wong continued. “We are human. We need to be kinder, gentler, to one another.”

Watch the powerful moment below.

Wong’s powerful statement comes in the aftermath of several racially-motivated attacks across the country.

Last week, eight people – six of whom were Asian women – were killed in a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to research published by Stop AAPI Hate on Tuesday, nearly 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents were reported over the course of the pandemic in the US. Women made up 68% of these reports.

Wong, who came to the US from China at the age of 18, describes himself as a moderate Republican, according to NBC News.

Wong served from 1975 to 1995 and sustained his injuries at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Mail Online reported.

He has served more than one term as the president of the board of trustees of the Ohio town, where more than 90 percent of the population of 66,000 is White, according to MEAWW.

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Men in 2 cities were charged with hate crimes for targeting people for their race as protests against anti-Asian violence ramp up across the country

anti-asian protests
People demonstrate against anti-Asian violence and racism on March 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

  • Two men in separate cities were charged with hate crimes for anti-Asian incidents.
  • The charges come as rallies pop up across the US to decry the rise in anti-Asian hate.
  • The rallies come after eight people were killed in a shooting in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian women.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Prosecutors in two major cities brought forth hate crime charges against two men in separate racially driven anti-Asian incidents.

In San Francisco, the District Attorney’s Office elevated what were initially misdemeanor charges against 53-year-old Victor Brown to felony assault and hate crime charges, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Earlier this month, Brown allegedly attacked and hurled racist slurs at an Asian American man.

In Seattle, King County prosecutors charged 51-year-old Christopher Hamner with a hate crime for allegedly throwing items at cars and screaming profanities at Asian women and children, the Seattle Times reported.

Hamner, who is being held on a $75,000 bond, allegedly yelled profanities and threw things at one woman who was stopped at a red light with her two young children on March 16. A few days later, he allegedly cut off another Asian woman’s car and threw a water bottle at it.

The hate crime charges come as people across the country protest the rise in anti-Asian-American attacks.

There has been a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic started. Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center that has been tracking cases from March to December of last year, said they received “over 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate” crimes.

There were rallies in over a dozen cities held on Saturday alone, ABC reported.

“We’re out here to say that we’re not going to tolerate racism towards Asian American communities,” Satya Vatti, an organizer with the Answer (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, told ABC affiliate WSB in Atlanta.

In Los Angeles, hundreds marched for a mile through Koreatown carrying signs and demanding an end to discriminatory acts towards Asians, CBSLA reported.

The rallies come after a 21-year-old man was accused of killing four people at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, before heading to Gold Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta, where another four people were killed earlier this month.

Six of the eight victims in the Georgia attacks were women of Asian descent. Police said the crimes may have not been racially motivated and that the perpetrator, Robert Aaron Long, told police he had a sex addiction.

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All 23 Democratic governors signed a letter condemning anti-Asian hate. Two Republicans joined them.

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Lucy Lee, of Marietta, Ga., holds an American flag while rallying outside of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta during a unity “Stop Asian Hate” rally Saturday afternoon, March 20, 2021.

  • A bipartisan group of governors and former officials released letters denouncing anti-Asian bias Friday.
  • All 23 Democratic governors, the governor of Guam, and two Republican governors signed one letter.
  • More than 60 former officials who served the past six presidents signed another.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In a show of solidarity, 26 governors and more than 60 former officials denounced violence toward Asian Americans in a pair of bipartisan statements Friday.

Hate incidents against Asian Americans have skyrocketed in the last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and calls to condemn anti-Asian hate have been building since the Atlanta-area spa shootings that left eight dead, including six Asian women.

All 23 Democratic governors and the governor of Guam signed on to a letter released Friday in solidarity with and support of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Only two Republican governors – Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland – out of 27 joined them

“Today, and every day, we stand in solidarity, in support, and in shared resolve with the Asian American community,” the letter said. “Hate will not divide our states, territories, and communities. We condemn all expressions of racism, xenophobia, scapegoating, and anti-Asian sentiment.”

The letter acknowledges America’s racist past, saying this year will go down in history along with the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, and the mistreatment of Muslims and Sikhs after 9/11.

“What is happening to Asian Americans is simply un-American. We condemn racism, violence, and hatred against our AAPI communities, and we must do more to protect, lift up, and support” the community, the letter said.

More than 60 Republicans and Democrats who have previously served as Cabinet secretaries, senior White House officials, and congressional chiefs of staff for the past six presidents signed a separate statement urging the Biden administration and Congress to protect the Asian American community.

The signatories include Elaine Chao, labor secretary under George W. Bush and transportation secretary under Donald Trump; Gary Locke, commerce secretary under Barack Obama; and Norman Mineta, transportation secretary under Bush and commerce secretary under Bill Clinton.

The release of the letters coincided with Stop AAPI Hate’s virtual day of action.

Stop AAPI Hate is a community advocacy group launched last year to track the number of hate incidents against Asian Americans following the onset of COVID-19. The group has tracked more than 3,800 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian bias since the pandemic started.

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A Texas GOP lawmaker refused to back down on lynching comments made during hearings on anti-Asian violence

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In this March 11, 2020 file photo, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • GOP Rep. Chip Roy is not backing down from comments about lynchings made at a hate crimes hearing.
  • “There’s an old saying in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree,” said Roy.
  • Critics said the comments glorified lynchings, which Asian Americans have historically been subjected to.
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Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas refused to back down on comments he made about lynching in a congressional hearing on anti-Asian violence.

Roy made the remarks on Thursday at a hearing about a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes following Tuesday’s mass shooting at three spas in Atlanta, Georgia, where 6 Asian women were among the victims.

He said his “concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys.”

Roy went on to criticize Communist China and said the focus should not be on restricting speech but punishing criminals.

“There’s an old saying in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously and we ought to do that, round up the bad guys,” said Roy.

The comments drew widespread criticism, with Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat whose family were immigrants from Taiwan, calling on him to apologize.

” The largest mass lynching in American history was against Chinese immigrants. I call on Chip Roy to apologize. He shouldn’t have been glorifying lynching at this hearing and he’s confusing the fears of a foreign government with what this hearing is about, which is attacks on Americans who happen to be of Asian descent,” Lieu told CNN”s New Day Friday.

But Roy in a statement to CBS News on Saturday doubled down on the comments.

“I meant it,” Roy said. “We need more justice and less thought policing. We need to stop evildoers, such as those who carried out the attack in Atlanta this week, or cartels abusing little children. … We should restore order by tamping out evil actors, not turn America into an authoritarian state like the Chinese communists who seek to destroy us.”

“No apologies,” Roy added.

Some critics have pointed out that the expression Roy claimed is an old Texas saying is probably taken from “Beer for My Horses,” a song by country star Toby Keith in collaboration with Willie Nelson.

Keith has denied the song glorifies lynching, and told Fox News in 2008 it’s about “the old West and horses and sheriffs … and going and getting the bad guys. It’s not a racist thing or about lynching.”

Former President Donald Trump was accused in a UN report last year of whipping up anti-Asian xenophobia during the pandemic, with Trump having repeatedly sought to pin the blame for the coronavirus on China, calling the disease the “China virus” and the disparaging “kung flu.”

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