Margaret Cho On Anti-Asian Violence: Trump’s ‘Casual Racism’ Is Part Of A Larger Problem

Using racist terms to talk about COVID-19 is part of a long history of discrimination against Asian Americans in the U.S., she told The Guardian.

Comedian Margaret Cho addressed the wave of anti-Asian attacks sweeping the U.S. in a candid interview with The Guardian published Thursday, touching on topics including former President Donald Trump and her own feelings of vulnerability as a 52-year-old woman of Korean descent. 

“I love to Donald Trump-bash and blame him for any reason I can, but the fact is that his casual racism is more a symptom of the greater problem than the cause of this,” Cho said, referring to Trump’s insistence on using racist terms to refer to COVID-19. “It’s about the repetitive nature of hate crimes and how they’re not new, even if they seem new, because they’re presented as shocking and new by the news.”

Cho has spoken out against anti-Asian racism on panels and media interviews in the last several months. She has also begun devoting new episodes of her podcast, “Margaret Cho: Mortal Minority,” to an examination of prominent Asian hate crimes in the U.S., including the Chinese Massacre of 1871 — a mass lynching in Los Angeles’ Chinatown during which a mob killed at least 17 immigrants in cold blood. In other interviews, Cho has also brought up the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, who was killed by two Detroit auto workers who blamed him for the rise of Japanese automobiles, despite the fact that Chin was Chinese American.

Cho told The Guardian that she was terrified by the shootings at Atlanta-area spas last month, particularly as a previous resident of Atlanta who had visited spas in the city. The attacks left eight people — including six of Asian women — dead. She also spoke about Cherokee County Police Capt. Jay Baker, who infamously said the suspect in those attacks had had a “really bad day.” 

“They’re all women about my age,” Cho said of the victims. “It was very upsetting to see the police try to humanize and emotionally connect with the shooter. Why were they making such an effort to justify his actions? This was obviously a hate crime.”

Cho — who broke records in 1994 with “All-American Girl,” the first prime-time sitcom to focus on an Asian American family — said people of Asian descent in the U.S. are often forced to reckon with “aspirational whiteness,” or the desire to avoid discrimination by fully assimilating into white communities. 

She said she had personally tried to rebel against this belief.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to survive long enough in the entertainment industry that there are a generation of Asian American performers who look up to me,” Cho said. “That’s probably my greatest achievement.”

However, Cho added, attacks on Asian Americans have made her question leaving her home. 

“I’m really scared,” she said. “It’s kind of like: How do you escape your skin? I limit my time out and I think it’s awful to acknowledge that.”