Once news began to circulate that COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China, we witnessed the continuation of an ancient, sad thought pattern that has plagued the world for centuries. Slowly, racist and xenophobic jokes about the Asian community began to permeate the Internet. Some of these culprits are also celebrities we support and admire. But when it comes to disdain towards an entire race that is based on fear, ignorance, and misinformation, we have to call it out.
Numerous Asian people have been subjected to verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse for nothing more than living their lives during this pandemic. To make matters worse, President Trump has referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu” on more than one occasion. This complete disregard for the Asian community and their feelings is not new, but it is especially appalling to witness individuals with large social platforms use their power to spread hate. The impact of their words and actions emboldens others to behave in the same manner.
ESSENCE‘s News and Politics Editor, Tanya Christian, recently spoke on another instance of xenophobia in the American government. “On [March 18,] Texas Senator John Cornyn said that “China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs…,these viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the swine flu.” It’s easy to track why exactly people feel so comfortable being their darkest selves when you consider how frequently the president does it.
This rhetoric has real-world consequences as well.
On February 26, the New Zealand Herald published a disturbing video of a man physically assaulting an Asian woman for removing her face mask in a grocery store. He yelled at her throughout the attack, and continuously landed blows to her head. She left the store with blood streaming down her face.
A few weeks prior, New York real estate agent Matt Deguida verbally bashed an Asian woman for picking up bottles on the street. He posted the clip to his Instagram story.
“This is why you have a f***ing virus,” Deguida says in the video. “Keep picking through the garbage you f***ing idiot.”
The Asian community does not deserve to be disrespected in this way. We won’t stand for it. Racism and xenophobia are poor responses to COVID-19, and until people realize that, a true sense of unity in the face of turmoil will be unattainable.