A state Assembly staffer in Brooklyn blasted out a xenophobic message urging New Yorkers to avoid Chinese businesses as the city is grappling with the coronavirus.
“We urge citizens to stay away from Chinese supermarkets, shops, fast food outlets, Restaurant, [sic] and Business,” reads a Facebook message shared last week by Marilyn Franks, an office assistant and receptionist in Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus’ (D-Brooklyn) Coney Island office.
“Most of the owners went back to China to celebrate the Chinese New [Year] Celebrations,” the screed continues. “They are returning and some are bringing along the Coronavirus. Rather be safe than sorry.”
The misleading missive concludes with an exhortation to spread the message to “keep our people from this deadly virus.”
An organizer for a group that advocates for Chinese workers in New York slammed the message.
“It’s a very divisive message and doesn’t help at all fighting the virus,” Zishun Ning of the Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association told The News. “The most important task right now is to fight the disease instead of blaming it on a certain group, which doesn’t make sense at all.”
Frontus said she’s sorry for her staffer’s conduct, noting Franks works part-time and was forwarding a chain message.
“I apologize for the harm this caused,” the assemblywoman said in a statement. “This message violates the core values of my office, and this staffer has been warned and ordered to desist, and will complete additional cultural sensitivity training.
“Crisis can bring out latent fears and prejudices, but that is when it is most important for us to come together. Ignorance is no excuse for spreading hateful messages,” she added.
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Elected officials have been trying to stem anti-Asian xenophobia as the coronavirus has spread worldwide from its epicenter in China.
Last month, Mayor de Blasio and city officials visited Flushing, Queens, to boost Asian-American businesses that have reported a dip in business amid coronavirus fears.
“In hard times, New Yorkers know to stand by their neighbors,” Hizzoner said. “We’re in Flushing today to embrace Asian-American owned small businesses and say to all New Yorkers: New York City’s Chinatowns are open for business.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office did not immediately answer a request for comment.
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