ANTI-ASIAN racism, from the assaults in towns, to the fear of East Asians, to President Donald Trump’s name calling, continues to pervade the country. COVID-19 is being used as the fuel to justify these thoughts and actions. If xenophobia of East Asians continues to spread, the effects could harm a community long after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xenophobia has not only affected people of Chinese descent, but also Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, and other East Asians across the world. Physical assaults against Asians have occurred in New York City and Philadelphia subways. Three Asian family members, including a two-year-old and a six-year-old, were stabbed in Texas because the attacker thought they were Chinese and had COVID-19. Two Hmong men were turned down from two different hotels in Indiana due to their appearance. Students are bullying their Asian peers, accusing them of having coronavirus; a high schooler in California even ended up hospitalized.
Attacks against elderly Asian civilians were reported in Canada and Italy at grocery stores; a video emerged of a man in Florida chasing an elderly Asian woman with hand sanitizer yelling, “Sanitize your ass!” News headlines of “Yellow Alert” and “A New Yellow Peril” in France incited the movement of #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus, meaning “I am not a virus.” Although this virus originated in Wuhan, China, it can be spread by anyone and has nothing to do with being Asian.
As an Asian-American, these times have left me scared not only for myself, but also for my family, friends, and the East Asian community. I often find myself getting stared at by strangers with alarming glances. I look down to hide my face as I walk outside on New Hampshire trails. I have seasonal and dust allergies, so now I hold in my coughs and sneezes through the day as best I can in attempts to not raise alarm.
Just eight blocks away from where I live, an Asian man was assaulted. This has left me terrified to walk one block to my medical school and grocery store past sunset. I worry about my parents and grandparents when they have to go outside. I worry about my little sister and the possible stigma and bullying she may face upon returning to middle school. I worry about all the progress the East Asian community has made in previously uncharted waters of politics, music, and entertainment that is at risk of being dismissed by anti-Asian racism across the country.
The flaw in President Trump’s logic in calling it the “Chinese Virus,” “China Virus,” or “Wuhan Virus” lies in equating a government’s mistake with an entire ethnic group’s mistake. It is true that the Communist Party of China has not taken accountability for their actions. Censoring Dr. Li Wenliang on Jan. 3 for warning them about this new coronavirus, China is probably responsible for denying the world one to two months of preparation. They are engaging in a propaganda campaign to cover their mistakes; on March 12, Lijian Zhao, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information, tweeted “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” baselessly accusing COVID-19 originating in the U.S. Army. It was not until after Zhao’s announcement that Trump began calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus” on March 16.
President Trump, National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, and senators Tom Cotton and John Cornyn have argued that calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus” is justified in attempts to correct China’s misinformation campaign; however, their delivery of this message was poor. Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, tweeted in response to Zhao “millions of Chinese suck the blood out of rabid bats as an appetizer and eat [obscenity deleted] out of anteaters.”
Senator Tom Cotton said, “We will emerge stronger from this challenge, we will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world.”
Although Trump clarified that this is the fault of the Communist Party of China and not the Chinese people, calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” in the U.S., with his latest during his speech at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 27, is not going to combat the propaganda within China. Government officials further promoted anti-Asian racism, and Trump calling COVID-19 the “Kung Flu” at the Tulsa rally on June 20 is unequivocally racist rhetoric with no intention to correct China’s misinformation campaign.
As anti-Asian racism and xenophobia pervade the country, it could have lasting effects. It is everyone’s responsibility to check their biases before acting and question leaders when they use racial rhetoric. Regardless of COVID-19’s origin, this virus has the ability to infect anyone by anyone.