COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma: Erin Shigaki

The “forever-foreigne” sentiment sticks with Asian Americans. It hurts to see this play out in the global pandemic, where once again, when it’s not convenient for us to be American, we’re foreign, and seen as causing something terrible.


Reports of coronavirus-related hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders keep coming in. Most hate incidents are verbal abuse, ethnic intimidation, and vandalism. But acts of violence are also taking place including the March 14 stabbing of a Hmong American family in Texas and April 5 acid attack on a Chinese American woman in Brooklyn. This week, actor John Cho published an essay in the LA Times, “Coronavirus reminds Asian Americans like me that belonging is conditional.” I took these images of Seattle-based artist Erin Shigaki as she did volunteer food deliveries in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (SCID). Erin said she felt comfortable wearing a mask in the SCID but when she wore a mask anywhere else, she was getting nasty looks. People of color deserve to stay safe from coronavirus too and not get stigmatized when they go out in public. You can help by sharing. Thank you.

I am Asian American.
I am grateful for and committed to my community.
I am powerful.


Pictured: Erin Shigaki creates murals and installations focused on the experiences of communities of color, often the incarceration of 126,000 people of Japanese ancestry, including her own family. Erin is passionate about highlighting similarities between that history, the inhumane detention and family separation immigrants face today, and other systemic injustices black and brown people continue to face. Erin is also a community activist with the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee and Tsuru for Solidarity.

COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma is a portrait campaign to help combat increased racism against people of color during COVID-19, raise awareness about the disproportionate impacts of coronavirus on communities of color, and prioritize safety instead of stigma by the public.

Safety notes: These photos were taken at safe distance outside using a 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens. I wore a mask and sanitized my equipment immediately following. Please remember the CDC recommends at least 6-ft or more of distance from those outside your family cluster.

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