Racism is a Virus Too

Nellie Mae Ed. Fdn.
3 min readMar 16, 2020

Since we released the Racism is a Virus Too Rapid Response Fund on March 16th, we have witnessed unimaginable suffering on a global scale as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities of color have been most acutely impacted, and we continue to see a rise in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. At the same time we have been inspired to learn about the powerful ways in which Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and their allies have come together to support youth and families during these challenging times, and we look forward to amplifying their work in the near future. The Racism is a Virus Too fund is one step we are taking to support impacted communities in the New England region amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. For this round of funding, we have set the deadline of April 17 as we continue to organize our efforts to further support communities most impacted by the pandemic.

Like many organizations across the globe, Nellie Mae has been carefully monitoring the development of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the hardships that the virus has caused for communities and individuals experiencing it first-hand.

As a light-skinned, cisgender Asian woman who holds many privileges, I have personally experienced and observed how xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiments has harmed my extended family, friends and community both globally and domestically.

At the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we recognize that for underserved communities and communities of color in particular — inequities — whether they be access to childcare, healthcare, food, or a paycheck — become exacerbated in such situations.

An unspoken piece of this pandemic is how misinformation and false narratives cause deep harm to communities of color, and in this case, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). We are standing in solidarity with AAPI communities in the New England region who have been impacted by xenophobia, racism and Sinophobia stemming from a perceived connection with COVID-19.

We have been disturbed and disheartened to learn about the bullying and hate crimes against students of Asian heritage that have arisen in our schools and communities as a result of misconceptions surrounding COVID-19. Harmful descriptions of the virus as the “China Virus” or “Wuhan Virus” contribute to a racist narrative about the pandemic that disproportionately harms Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

At the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, our mission is to champion efforts that prioritize community goals that challenge racial inequities and advance excellent, student-centered public education for all New England youth. We are committed to using our power and privilege as a philanthropic organization to support antiracist and anti-xenophobic efforts by organizations that serve AAPI youth and communities at this critical time.

Today, we are launching a rapid response fund to respond to the hate crimes and bias against Asian American communities resulting from COVID-19. The Foundation has allocated resources for the Racism is a Virus Too rapid response grant fund to support Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) that provide services for AAPI communities.

This is one step we are taking to support impacted communities in the New England region amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We are aware that the COVID-19 crisis will have a lasting impact; therefore, we are committed to remaining engaged in partnerships with communities and other funders to provide supports to those most impacted, especially communities and youth facing the most racial inequities.

Ellen Wang
Senior Program Officer
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation