Rising racism

An Asian American obstacle

Ruth L. and Brianna H.

As a result of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in racism and xenophobia towards Asians around the world.

The COVID-19 virus, also known as the coronavirus, started in late 2019. Since then, the virus has spread rapidly around the world, killing 275,960 people worldwide as of May 8, according to worldometers.info. It is widely believed that the virus originated in Wuhan, China, and this has caused an increase in reported hate crimes towards Asian-Americans in the United States.

“People are scared, and people were racist before. It’s just that they [now] have an excuse to exhibit this racism,” said senior Andrew W.

Many feel that the increased racism is a result of anger and fear, combined with misinformation.

“They will basically blame where they feel it is coming from. As long as they don’t have the right information, their immediate response is anger. They want to do something to get rid of the anger, so I guess this is the outcome of that,” said senior Nathan C.

However, some people feel that although there have been more violent cases of racism against Asian-Americans, there is not a generalized negative attitude towards Asians among the public.

“Since I don’t actively crawl on social media for people’s views on the situation, the [views] that I am exposed to [are] the most vocal and extreme. [Since] these [are] extreme cases, not a lot of people are thinking this,” said junior Kevin C.

The public also began using the term, “Chinese virus” when referring to COVID-19, which has received mixed responses.

“I hate [the label ‘Chinese virus’]. I hate it immensely. There’s nothing wrong with describing where a virus came from. Yes, it did come from China, but it makes no sense because it has spread all over the world now, so there’s no reason to use that [label]. Putting a label to it [based on] nationality is dangerous because it sort of inherently is putting the blame on [the Chinese], and it’s also used as a scapegoat for people who are looking to be racist.” said junior Elena G.

President Trump widely popularized the term, “Chinese virus”, after using it to describe the coronavirus.

According to CNN.com, “President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has decided to pull back from associating the novel coronavirus with China, which he had previously done by calling it the ‘China virus’ or the ‘Chinese virus.’ After consulting with medical experts, and receiving guidance from the World Health Organization, CNN has determined that that name is both inaccurate and is considered stigmatizing.”

Many Asians have personally experienced racism caused by the pandemic.

“Sometimes people will just ask me if I have COVID-19 because I’m Asian. I know they just joke around, but sometimes it’s offensive,” said freshman Meiya L.

The pandemic has also negatively affected Asian-owned businesses due to racist sentiments.

“One of my dad’s friends [who owns a restaurant] received a prank call where the person was saying, ‘I know you cook bats. Stop cooking bats,’ and then they hung up. Another kid said that his dad wasn’t letting him buy Chinese food because ‘they have the coronavirus’,” said junior Angela W.

Some people believe that the news is not covering enough of the reported hate crimes against Asian-Americans.

“I think the news is sort of downplaying [the increased racism] as a side effect of the virus. I think they’re giving a lot more attention to things that should not be given attention, like false information that’s spread by various political leaders and hate groups on the internet,” said Elena G.

Although numerous people feel that these xenophobic attacks deserve more attention in the media, some also feel that it is understandable given the circumstances of the pandemic.

“I don’t think [the racism] is on everybody’s mind right now. It’s not something that you would normally see reported because it doesn’t appeal to everyone. The only thing I’ve seen is the NextShark Instagram (a global Asian news network) that has multiple reports about it. I haven’t seen much on major news networks,” said Nathan C.

Despite the events caused by COVID-19, racism towards Asian-Americans is not new.

“It’s unfair. We’ve been receiving a lot of racism for a long time,” said Meiya L.

Asian students often get teased for their ethnicity.

“[One of my classmates] went around the band room asking [an Asian student], ‘How do you say dog meat in your language? How do you say cat meat?’” said Elena G.

In effort to give Asian Americans a voice and identity in the United States, two high school students on Long Island created an Instagram page (@asiansspeakup) and website (asiansspeakup.com).

“We wanted to do something for a while because these racist and xenophobic acts have been happening throughout all time. We wanted to show a sense of confidence in the Asian community. Our plan was to have people, coming from all over, write stories about their Asian heritage that has made them into who they are today so that we could hopefully bring down the levels of attacks in the present day. Being aware of people’s backgrounds and people’s history, no matter the culture can really help expand your way of living,” said cofounder of Asians Speak Up Arin Siriamonthep.

The founders of Asians Speak Up plan on continuing the page even after the pandemic ends as a support system for Asians.

“Since the amount of hate crimes against Asian people has increased in the past few months, it’s more so bringing Asian people together as a community than doing something in response to whatever hate crime is going on right now. Instead of retaliating, it is giving all Asians a sense of identity and something that they can take with them into the future,” said cofounder of Asians Speak Up Brian Gao.

Nevertheless, there is a common sentiment around many Asian-Americans currently.

“It’s the worst time to be an Asian-American right now,” said Andrew W.🔳