A cold glare, being spat on, or even being violently attacked. This is the reality that thousands of people of Asian descent are experiencing amid the Coronavirus pandemic. While not many people were concerned for their safety, in the beginning, millions are now out of school or unemployed, not leaving their homes unless necessary. As COVID-19 spread to other countries such as Italy, where the death rate was around 12.2 percent as of April 7, tension and anxiety grew dramatically.
The long-ignored Anti-Asian racism is now threatening many Asian-American lives. They are afraid to go out, even to grocery stores. Spreading faster than the virus, anti-Asian racism could crush people’s lives. Over 650 discrimination cases reported were mainly Anti-Asian Americans within one week on the newly launched website “Stop AAPI Hate”. As of March 31, reported hate crimes against Asian Americans averaged approximately 100 per day, though many more are not reported. Online, thousands of posts, videos, comments, and blogs target Asian-Americans.
Recently, Jennifer Lin, a Chinese-American, has been facing racism from strangers.
In stores for the past few weeks, people have steered clear of me, think sudden U-turns of their carts, looked suspiciously at me, and given me angry looks while covering their noses and mouths with scarves,”
— Jennifer Lin
“In stores for the past few weeks, people have steered clear of me, think sudden U-turns of their carts, looked suspiciously at me, and given me angry looks while covering their noses and mouths with scarves,” Lin said.
The lives of Asian-Americans have become much harder during the pandemic. On top of concerns for getting COVID-19, they must deal with racism against them and their families, who, due to language and cultural barriers, might not even be aware of racist acts that have the potential to become violent.
“I remember one [Chinese] student told me that when she was shopping in Schnucks in Clayton, one American was yelling at her, ‘go back to your country’, ” Linyun Fu, the manager of Global programs at Brown school in Washington University in St. Louis, said.
Racism against Asians is not new to this country. In the 1980s, people with Asian backgrounds were harassed, attacked and blamed for the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing sector. However, the difference between now and then is that the U.S. government is encouraging Anti-Asian racism instead of warning people about the potential damage of it.
Last month, an unnamed White House official allegedly called COVID-19 the “Kung Flu.” A picture of Donald Trump’s speech for his March 19 press conference revealed that the words “Corona Virus” were crossed out and replaced with “Chinese Virus,” causing an enormous uproar of disapproval from many Americans. Cyber violence has become an issue as well, inundated with videos, posts, and comments of “Kung-Flu”, “ Chinese-virus”, “Wuhan virus” and other racist phrases. In March alone, on Twitter, 10,000 posts included the phrase “Kung-Flu.”
“I think that it’s completely not necessary and wrong to say [it’s the Chinese-virus and names like that]. Fauci and all these other medical experts have not been calling it [the Chinese Virus], it’s not Chinese Virus, it has its name.” CHS junior Angela Xiao said.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave out the new guideline of naming a virus, stating disease names may NOT include geographic locations, people’s names, cultural, population, industry or occupational references to avoid unnecessary offenses. For this reason, the new virus COVID-19 was named COVID-19. Still, many people kept using anthropomorphism — giving a not-human virus an ethnicity and human characteristics.
Many believe that the United States, and especially President Trump, must better acknowledge the purpose of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
“I think this is a time when we need to come together as a nation to fight the disease, instead of dividing parts and tearing each other apart. On top of the pandemic you would also worry about people being racist, which is something you shouldn’t have been worrying about in this hard time,” said Xiao.