Novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has become a worldwide pandemic, forcing many countries to halt tourism, festivals and celebrations of holidays and go into lockdown. The deadly virus originated in Wuhan, China, allegedly starting in a wet market, where viruses can more easily jump from animals to humans. Since the virus started in China, the spread of xenophobia and racism towards people of Chinese and Asian descent has risen.
This racism has sparked several unprovoked, violent attacks towards people of Asian descent. On February 24, Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean, was attacked by four men in central London who used the virus as their justification for beating Mok. In early March, two New Yorkers of Asian descent were attacked, with the attackers using anti-Asian language, reflecting the rise in racist and xenophobic tendencies highlighted by the pandemic.
Media bias has also been a contributing factor in discrimination against people of Asian descent. Several newspapers, including the New York Times have used pictures of people of Asian descent for articles relating to COVD-19, further perpetuating the idea that Asian people are carriers of the virus, when in reality the virus doesn’t target certain nationalities or ethnicities.
In addition to this media bias, President Trump has taken to calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus” despite warnings that it may cause increased racism.
Along with the president refusing to acknowledge the potential harm his phrasing could cause, the US State Department pushed for the phrase “Wuhan virus” to be included in a joint statement from the Group of Seven, or G7. This push caused backlash from the other nations, who refused to call the virus by that name.
Julia Conner, a Chinese-American CHS senior also disagrees with the use of “Wuhan” or “Chinese virus.”
“While I understand telling the origin of the virus to an audience, associating the virus with a people still manifests itself in actual aggression or violence to visibly Asian people,” said Conner, via email.
While it may seem like these anti-Asian sentiments are new and have been caused by the pandemic, racism towards Asian people has been happening for centuries in the US, with laws that limited Chinese immigration to the country and other irrational fears. This reflects the racist ideology of Yellow Peril, which led to fear of East Asians and the belief that they were a threat to the Western world.
“From a historical standpoint, discrimination and violence against Asian Americans comes in waves, from “the yellow peril” to internment, and it’s a reminder right now that even if it’s easy to forget because it’s glossed over in the textbooks, there are still issues to resolve in the present,” said Conner, via email.
Amid this trend are people who aim to show support to Asian Americans, through social media or by backing local Asian businesses and restaurants. Although it’s important to not leave the house, there are still ways to be a kind face amongst these waves of anti-Asian sentiments.