With the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the world is facing an unprecedented time, and countries are making efforts to overcome this pandemic. Although many of us are facing challenges such as job losses, decreased wages, sick friends and families, and much more, the Asian community in particular has been startled with the challenge of facing public racism and prejudice by xenophobic aggressors. During a worldwide pandemic, racism and blaming of a certain group of people cannot be justified as globalized travel has dispersed the virus from various countries.
In response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, political officials around the world should be pursuing greater measures towards preventing Anti-Asian racism as hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian community linked with the pandemic has skyrocketed.
Prejudice Out of the Blue
Although the outbreak started in Wuhan, China, it has quickly spread worldwide, infecting thousands of people from various countries, and with the combination of global travel, it has become irrational to attribute the virus to an individual based on his or her racial identity. However, almost all of the hate crimes linked to the outbreak of COVID-19 were directed towards people of Asian descent. Instances of Anti-Asian racism include individuals getting kicked, pushed, spat on, brutally beat, stabbed, verbally harassed, threatened, and looted due to the ignorant assumption that the victims were spreading the virus. In our globalized society where travel across the world is so numerous, it makes it impossible to track the spread of the virus from each person, which is why it is unacceptable to target an individual based on his or her race or appearance.
Increase in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes
STOP AAPI HATE, a reporting center founded by Asian Americans after the start of the outbreak, received over 1,900 reports within 8 weeks of cases of racism, verbal harassment, discrimination, and physical assaults against Asians in the United States alone. With this outrageously great amount, the US should inevitably be taking further actions to protect the Asian community. During the Coronavirus crisis, hate crimes targeted towards South and East Asian communities have increased by 21% in the United Kingdom. The UK should be focusing on lowering this rate in order to keep the South and East Asian communities safe. There have been reports of Asians getting assaulted simply because “they looked Chinese”, and ignorant attackers thought that “they were spreading the virus.” The irony of this is that in many Asian countries, such as China, Japan, and South Korea, there is a wide practice where the sick wear face masks in order to prevent contaminating others, whereas in western countries, there are little to no public procedures of preventing contamination to others. It wasn’t until after the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus did western countries circulate the same procedures as Asian countries (wearing face masks, wearing gloves, using disinfectants, etc.).
Ignorance from Politicians
Several world leaders and politicians have used racist rhetoric, encouraging prejudice against the Chinese. US President Donald Trump popularized the term “Chinese Virus” while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the term “Wuhan Virus” as a means to divert blame towards the Chinese. Although the U.S. has leading reports of Anti-Asian crimes tied to the outbreak of COVID-19, the president has not addressed any governmental response towards protecting Asians/Asian-Americans. The Governor of the Veneto region of Italy, a primary epicenter of the virus, tells journalists that Italians would handle the outbreak better than the Chinese, claiming that Italians have “culturally strong attention to hygiene, washing hands, taking showers, whereas we have all seen the Chinese eating mice alive.” Brazil’s education minister tweeted on social media that the pandemic was part of the Chinese government’s “plan for world domination.” This is not only misinformation to the public, but also extremely offensive to the Chinese community. Although the outbreak started in China, the country has handled the cases and spread of the virus more effectively than several countries that had prior knowledge and time to prepare for the virus (US, Italy, Russia, Germany, UK, etc.).
Rather than spreading misleading information that only worsens the situation for the Asian community and doesn’t benefit anyone, politicians should be pursuing measures in preventing further chaos during this crisis by denouncing racism and encouraging healthy habits. Rather than instigating attacks, politicians should be insisting that people social distance and supporting at-risk communities in order to overcome this pandemic.
Be a positive influence on the youth by explaining the importance of treating vulnerable people in our community with respect and compassion. Although we may not be able to prevent racist, ignorant, and degenerate adults from spreading hate, it certainly does not mean that we can’t prevent future generations from following these detrimental influences. We should be contacting our local government officials, school administrators, diversity officers, human resources representatives, and other community leaders to urge them to publicly denounce the racism against Asians in the community. Be sensitive to the jokes and memes that you create. Although a person may be “joking,” it can be easy for others to form misconceptions that there are no consequences for mocking an individual or group of people. Creating offensive jokes regarding the origin of the novel coronavirus will spread racial stereotypes and misbeliefs that may harm the Chinese and people of other Asian ethnicities. Lastly, remember to treat people the way you want to be treated.