COVID-19 continues to fuel racism and xenophobia across the globe. From name-calling to hate crimes, nothing can justify the horrific treatment that many Asians have been facing. A more subtle racist action is the labeling of the virus — associating the disease to a specific region or culture. For instance, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, publicly addressed COVID-19 as the "Kung Flu." Some may find this comical, however, it is an attack on Asian heritage and representation. Other examples include names like "the Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus." Whether you realize it or not, this is alienating specific regions, while also generalizing Asians regardless of ethnicity. Despite the virus being labeled to a specific ethnicity, all Asians experience a shared trauma from the racism enflamed by the pandemic.
Several stories have been shared by Asian Americans about their experiences with racism. The following quote is from Jay Koo who opened up about his experience through TIME.
"The men acted out of reflex in quoting President Donald Trump and stated that I have the ‘Chinese virus,’ which propped up the Chinese as the scapegoat."
Asians facing discrimination, violence amid coronavirus outbreak by ABC News
The experience shared by Jay Koo and other Asian Americans is a prime example of how little actions –like the use of "Chinese virus"– perpetuates enormous stigma. Donald Trump is only one of many politicians around the world that have incited racism surrounding the virus. And unfortunately, this type of social reaction to a new disease is not unprecedented and has taken on many forms before.
Reflecting back on the SARS outbreak in 2003, Chinese, Southeast, and East Asian populations faced similar animosity as a result of public labeling and associations to disease. Reaching back even further to the 1800s in the United States, the discrimination against Asian Americans is really a revisitation of Yellow Peril. Yellow Peril is a racist metaphor that points to East Asians as an existential threat to the western world. Applied to the popular press, Yellow Peril began as an attack on the waves of immigrants and their influence on the economy. But over time, it has metamorphosized into a symbol of Asian American pride in remembering the strength of the community against racism.
It's also important for us to recognize that racism from the previous and current pandemics impacts not only Asians, but other People of Color as well. Racism against any races are all inherently connected by a shared trauma amongst all POC.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
- Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
Little Ways You Can Help
Support local Asian businesses
Avoid using racist slurs or phrasing
Call out your friends/family/community when racist comments are made
Wear a mask – protect yourself and others!
Educate yourself on the history of xenophobia and Asian culture
Donate to communities that have been impacted by COVID-19