Guest columnists Ali Wicks-Lim and Caroline Murray: Words matter. Which side will you be on?

  • Huntington Country Store. gazette file photo

Published: 9/14/2020 11:30:41 AM

We are at a pivotal moment in our history. This is the time for each of us to decide — as individuals and as a community — which side of history we are on.

In the last four years, our country has seen unprecedented division, hateful rhetoric, racism and increasing violence. Egged on by the president, white supremacists have been emboldened. Torch-wielding white men descend on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, killing a protester; front-line workers are assaulted over masks; police and vigilantes murder Black people in the streets and in their homes; and militias armed to the teeth take over state capitols.

Just this past month, we have seen the violence escalate in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and in Portland, Oregon. Hate crimes against Black, Indigenous and people of color are on the rise across the country.

And now, the hatred is at our door, and in our community. A few weeks ago, community members became aware that Randy and Becky Butler, who own the Huntington Country Store, use the term “China Coronavirus” in multiple places on their website and on signs in their store. People are fearful and angry about COVID-19. When store owners choose to use racially-charged language, they create a target for that fear and anger, impacting the safety of Asians and people of Asian descent in our community.

Since February, when the president and his administration began labeling the coronavirus as the “China virus,” there has been a significant rise in violence, harassment and abuse against Asians and people of Asian descent.

According to a report by CBS News, more than 2,100 anti-Asian-American hate incidents related to COVID-19 were reported across the country over a three-month timespan between March and June. Civil rights and racial justice organizations have issued a joint call to action denouncing the increase in discrimination against Asian-Americans related to COVID-19.

Hate incidents ranged from verbal assault and racial slurs all the way to actual violence. Interestingly, the AAPI Hate report that tracks anti-Asian hate incidents around the country notes that more than a third of the hate incidents occurred in a business setting — such as the Huntington Country Store.

Words matter. Hateful rhetoric has consequences.

We’ve urged Randy and Becky Butler to consider the consequences of their actions. We’ve called, emailed and sent messages on social media without a response. Finally, a small group of us went to the store in person to have a conversation and to deliver a letter outlining our concerns.

Randy and Becky Butler would not meet with us or take our letter. Instead, they doubled down on their hateful rhetoric, dedicating an entire page of their website to their xenophobic conspiracies while their supporters screamed at us, took down their masks to blow smoke in our faces, and harassed us online threatening us with physical violence and sexual assault.

It’s time to take a stand. As a community, we must join together to reject this kind of hate.

Here’s three ways you can make a difference:

First, document and report anti-Asian violence and discrimination at this online reporting center.

Second, don’t spend money at Huntington Country Store, a business that sows hatred and division. Instead, support Stand Up for AAPI Youth During COVID, a campaign to counter hate against Asian-American young people.

And finally, sign a petition created at and tell Randy and Becky Butler that until they remove this racist language and issue a public apology, you won’t be spending your money at the Huntington Country Store.

Words matter. And so do our actions at this moment in time. As a member of this community you will have to decide what kind of country this is, what kind of community you want to live in, and ultimately, what kind of person you are.

It’s time to make a stand, right here and right now. Which side will you be on?

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