Shelley Luther, a Republican candidate for the Texas House of Representatives, put the racism against Chinese in the United States and its neo-McCarthyism on full display when she tweeted recently that “Chinese students should be BANNED from attending all Texas universities. No more Communists!”
The remarks were outrageous as they directly run counter to the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It is therefore no surprise that they immediately drew widespread criticism, including a strong censure from Houston Democrat Gene Wu who said such statements are “ignorant, hateful, and incite violence against not only Chinese Americans, but all Asian Americans”.
The US has always been the top destination for Chinese students seeking to study abroad. In the academic year 2019-20, there were roughly 370,000 Chinese mainland students enrolled at US universities and schools, accounting for 35 percent of the total number of international students in the country. International students create jobs, drive research, and have become the US’ greatest foreign policy assets, according to the Association of International Educators. For example, international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the US economy in 2019, and during the 2018-19 academic year, they created or supported more than 458,000 jobs — or three jobs created for every seven international students who chose to study in the US. Not to mention the key role they have played in promoting cross-cultural understanding that will surely benefit future state-to-state relations.
Yet Chinese students have been increasingly caught up in the deteriorating relations between the US and China, with many of them being unjustifiably portrayed as threats to US national security. Former US president Donald Trump explicitly called “most Chinese students spies”. Some US lawmakers have also introduced legislation to ban Chinese students from graduate or postgraduate studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
Racist violence and discrimination linked to the COVID-19 pandemic targeting Asians and people of Asian descent have been on the rise in the US partly due to some politicians inciting such attacks. The latest remarks by Luther show how challenging it remains to address racism and xenophobia in the US.
Discrimination and violence against Chinese were once rampant in US history driven by fears that they were taking away jobs and bringing in diseases, which culminated in an 1882 law banning Chinese immigration. This is a stain on US history, and people with a sense of justice must remain on high alert to prevent it from recurring.
Editorial, China Daily