There have been multiple reported instances of violence against Asians in various countries in the wake of the pandemic

By Claudia Harmata
March 25, 2020 09:03 AM
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Awkwafina is speaking out against the negative “rhetoric” and “cruelty” amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Crazy Rich Asians actress, 31, updated her fans on her whereabouts and seemingly addressed the news of racially motivated attacks against the Asian community that have sprung up due to the outbreak.

“Have been away working for the past few months in all of this devastation, and wanted to make double sure I was OK to travel before coming back home to the U.S.,” she shared on Instagram. “Haven’t said much about this whole thing because mostly I am just saddened by it. I worry for those who are most at risk for serious illness, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.”

“I am saddened by the rhetoric that has come out of this, and the cruelty that came as a result,” Awkwafina continued. “I hope that while we self isolate and socially distance to stay safe, we also stay sane and calm. Wishing everyone a sense of peace during this batshit crazy time – I will be locking myself up for the next 2 weeks rewatching the Tiger King. Love you all ❤️❤️❤️.”

While the comedian didn’t specify the language she was referencing, her post comes just days after fellow actress Lana Condor slammed President Donald Trump in a post on her Instagram story for repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.”

“Be better. To wake up to your chaos is truly a nightmare. Please. Be better,” Condor, 22, began her note last week. “To my followers – be safe. I love you.”

The Vietnamese-born actress then continued, “You have no idea the ramifications your racist words & actions have on the Asian American community. You simply cannot even fathom the danger you are putting our community in. How dare you.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself. You call yourself a leader?” Condor wrote. “You know what leaders do? They LEAD by setting good examples and ACTION. Something we’ve yet to see you do. You need to take notes on Chinese billionaire Jack Ma who is ACTUALLY leading – by donating tests and millions of masks to AMERICA, bc you haven’t.”

“Please. Be better,” she concluded. “So we aren’t afraid to leave our house in fear someone will verbally or physically abuse us because of your xenophobia.”

Lana Condor; Donald Trump
| Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty; James Devaney/GC Images

The World Health Organization named the mysterious new respiratory disease COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, on Feb. 11 — and in 2015, the organization clarified that disease names should not focus on geographic locations.

However, Trump had continued to use the term “Chinese virus” on Twitter and during press briefings, despite widespread backlash and the reluctance of some of his own aides to use similar language.

There have been multiple reported instances of violence against Asians in various countries in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, underlining the risk of attaching a virus or disease to a particular country or ethnicity.

At a coronavirus briefing on March 18, Trump defended his choices after a reporter asked him if he was concerned about the harm it may bring to Asian Americans.

“It’s not racist at all. No. Not at all,” Trump said. “It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”

“I have great love for all of the people from our country,” Trump continued. “But, as you know, China tried to say at one point — maybe they stopped now — that it was caused by American soldiers. That can’t happen. It’s not going to happen, not as long as I’m president. It comes from China.”

Awkwafina
| Credit: Natalie Thomson/imageSPACE/Shutterstock

The White House also issued a statement on March 18 addressing the president’s comments.

“Spanish Flu. West Nile Virus. Zika. Ebola. All named for places. Before the media’s fake outrage, even CNN called it ‘Chinese Coronavirus,’” the White House posted on Twitter. “Those trying to divide us must stop rooting for America to fail and give Americans real info they need to get through the crisis.”

However, many disagree, and say that the president’s language is to blame.

“I absolutely think that words used by him matter,” John C. Yang, the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told NBC News. “Certainly use of this term by him and others even in the last couple of weeks have led to a noticeable incline in hate incidents that we are seeing. I do think that there is a correlation.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.