The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we knew it in numerous irreversible ways: everything from lifestyle to healthcare has undergone massive shifts in the span of a year, often with catastrophic consequences for those unable to adapt. One industry which has undergone irreparable damage is small businesses, specifically Asian ones. We are no strangers to the steady rise in xenophobia and hate crimes throughout the course of the pandemic, and it is this same sentiment which manifests itself in the form of boycotting Asian-run restaurants, convenience stores, etc. A lot of the businesses most affected are family-run mom-and-pop stores that lack the infrastructure needed to make a smooth and efficient transition to the post-lockdown world.
Already a systemically disadvantaged group, the Coronavirus has exacerbated inequalities that were bubbling just under the surface. In March, restaurants in various Chinatowns across the country reported as much as an 80% decrease in footfall, leading to the decline of historical Chinatown districts. Indian restaurants faced high mortality rates with 21% having to shut down. Even doctors have reported a decrease in the number of patients they receive, due to widespread fears of public commute or of experiencing anti-Asian attacks. Asians have seen the sharpest rise in unemployment across the country since February.
Several are, however, taking matters into their own hands and doing their part to aid in the revival and survival of these districts. Grace Young, a celebrated chef, took to social media with the #SaveChineseRestaurants campaign and partnered up with the James Beard Foundation, causing a massive stir amongst the general populace to help their local Asian businesses. Volunteer efforts are springing up across the country; in New York, about 20 Asian American professionals have raised more than $100,000 to buy meals for front-line workers from local Chinatown restaurants. Meanwhile, the nonprofit Chinatown Partnership worked with local lawmakers last month to kick off a campaign called Show Some Love in Chinatown. Celebrities like Margaret Cho, Harry Shum Jr and Jenny Yang have also started working with the #TakeOutHate campaign launched by Asian food company Ajinomoto, encouraging people to support Asian take-aways.
On a personal level, the best ways to help are to follow government safety protocols as closely as possible, to educate oneself about the situation at hand, and to choose to contribute to Asian-owned businesses whenever given the option. As with any tragedy, this one too can be overcome with solidarity and compassion.