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COVID-19 and Racism: Legislative Responses: Home

This guide is a compilation of state and local laws that have been passed in the wake of COVID-19, as a response to the rise of racist and xenophobic attacks on Asians and other minority groups as well as an attempt to address systemic injustices.

Project Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth increasing xenophobic acts of hatred and aggression against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Since January 2020, there have been over 1,800 reports of anti-Asian discrimination incidents related to COVID-19.* Despite the ongoing surge of incidents reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ)  have not yet announced any plans to combat this increase in discrimination and hate crimes. Local state and city officials have instead introduced resolutions denouncing anti-Asian sentiment.  

This resource guide stems from a pro bono project, coordinated through Vanderbilt Law School’s Immigration Practice Clinic, which resulted in the drafting of a proposed Nashville Metropolitan City Council resolution denouncing Anti-Asian sentiment due to COVID-19 (adopted on July 7, 2020). The project seeks to bring awareness to the increasing prevalence of xenophobia and anti-Asian actions and hate speech, to denounce any and all discriminatory acts, and to highlight the health and economic disparities that minority groups are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

This research guide aims to serve as a consolidated source of COVID-19 racism related legislation at both the state and local levels of government. This guide will continue to be updated as more resolutions are introduced and passed nationwide.

*Chinese for Affirmative Action & Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, Stop AAPI Hate Report: 03.19-5.13.20 (2020), http://www.asianpacificpolicyandplanningcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/Stop-AAPI-Hate-Report_3_19-5_13.pdf.

Qualitative Findings

Common Language:

The most ubiquitous characteristics in approved resolutions are condemnations of xenophobia and hate speech, as well as affirmation of communities’ commitment to respecting diversity among its residents. Common language that appears in draft or final local and state resolutions includes condemnations and denunciations of anti-Asian sentiment, discriminatory language, intolerance, and xenophobic attacks arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many state and local governments, through these resolutions, also acknowledge the need to create or make more accessible the avenues citizens may use to report discriminatory incidents. Affirmations of commitment to the well-being and safety of their Chinese, Asian American, or Asian Pacific Islander communities are a common thread that runs throughout these resolutions as well.  

Most resolutions are symbolic, with some offering concrete assistance to communities experiencing xenophobia and hate. Finally, some resolutions address the disparate health impacts COVID-19 has had on minority communities, while other resolutions have exclusively focused on the discrimination and hate speech Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have faced as a result of the pandemic.

Stalled Resolutions:

When resolutions have stalled in the legislative bodies for various bureaucratic reasons, some states and localities have found other ways to offer concrete assistance. States such as Minnesota and New York have both installed discrimination reporting hotlines to report bias and discrimination incidents that occur against Asian-Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York City Commission on Human Rights also formed a COVID-19 response team to address racially driven harassment and discrimination as a result of the virus. In lieu of local governments failing to step up and present resolutions, academic institutions such as Purdue University in Indiana have passed resolutions condemning anti-Asian American bigotry and establishing zero tolerance policies for any related xenophobic attacks that occur on campus.

Role of Media:

For the most part, cities and states with greater media coverage of COVID-19 related racially charged discrimination have more resolutions introduced and approved than those with less media coverage. However, exceptions to this pattern do exist. For example, Los Angeles, California has multitudes of news articles reporting on the increase of Asian American hate crimes related to COVID-19, and yet no local resolutions have been identified.

Quantitative Findings

Alaska - state (1)

California - state (3)* historic bills that are currently being used and cited for litigation and prosecution surrounding hate crimes, discrimination, and racism that has surged during COVID-19

California - state hotline

California - local (8) 

Colorado – local (1) 

Florida - local (2)

George - local (2)

Illinois- local (1) 

Minnesota- state (2)* introduced; both currently stalled in Senate 

Minnesota - state hotline

New Jersey- state (2)* introduced; both pending  

New York - local hotline

Ohio - state (1)* introduced & pending

Ohio - local (1) 

Oklahoma – local (1) 

Rhode Island – local (2) 

Tennessee - local (1)

Texas - local (1) 

Utah - state (1) enrolled; governor signature declined

Utah - local (1) 

Washington - local (1)

Wisconsin - local (1)

Disclaimer

In an effort at full disclosure, it should be noted that the collaborators on this guide occupy some of the oppressed identities outlined here, but not all of them. We have attempted to bring together quality, relevant resources for the addressing of racist and discriminatory issues in this guide, but we are not immune from the limits and hidden biases of our own privileges and perspectives as allies.

We welcome and greatly appreciate any feedback and suggestions for the guide, particularly from the perspectives and experiences of the marginalized groups listed and not listed here.

Contact the Law Library

During this period of limited access to campus, the Vanderbilt Law Reference Librarians will continue to provide reference and research assistance over email. We are also available to schedule virtual meetings over Zoom.

If You Want to Reuse This Guide

This guide is used and has been adapted with the permission of Alyne Queener Massey Law Library at Vanderbilt University School of Law. For more information about reusing the guide, please contact law_library_reference@list.vanderbilt.edu

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