Arizona health system removes Chinese dragon sculpture after backlash from Asian community

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HonorHealth has removed a bronze sculpture that was meant as a tribute for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic after the Chinese dragon depicted as part of the display sparked criticism from the Asian community, according to the Arizona Republic.

The sculpture — unveiled April 9 at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center —was created by HonorHealth staffer Vincent Russo, MD. It features the symbol of the Chinese dragon as well as a masked healthcare worker carrying an orb. 

After HonorHealth unveiled the sculpture, Justin Lum of news station Fox 10, who is vice president of the Arizona Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, tweeted his concerns regarding the display, particularly wording for the tribute stating that "The Chinese dragon with its looming form represents the location of where the first reported cases of the virus were discovered."

He said he reached out to a health system spokesperson about the sculpture.

"As a proud Asian American, I can't interpret the meaning of the statue any other way. This piece of 'art' is negative and divisive. The sculpture associated the COVID-19 virus with the Chinese dragon — a powerful symbol in our culture, now appearing to be some sort of villain," he told the Arizona Republic, adding that his views were not representing the news station specifically.

"Displaying this statue is dangerous because it allows the scapegoating to continue," he told the newspaper. "Shifting blame to Asian Americans once again, and the [Asian American, Pacific Islander] community has already experienced this for more than a year." 

HonorHealth posted this statement on Twitter April 10: 

"We felt the sculpture was a positive symbol for our staff to remember what we all have accomplished from this challenging time in history."

However, the health system said it realizes the Chinese dragon symbol was interpreted negatively among the Asian community and apologized.

"Just as we do not turn any culture, race or religion away from being treated at our hospitals, we would not want to discriminate toward anyone in that same light," the health system said.

The sculpture is no longer on display.

Read the full Arizona Republic article here.


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