The coronavirus made global headlines in early 2020, and has since spread to many countries. Along with its medical concerns, the coronavirus spreads an increase of xenophobia and prejudice towards Asians everywhere.
Since the coronavirus broke out of China, Asians from every corner of the globe started to share their experiences with racist harassment or implied microaggressions due to their outward appearance. People with Asians background from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain have all been noticing a rise in hostility towards them, and they are not alone.
One woman in Los Angeles shared her encounter on a bus ride one night. At first, she ignored the man that was angrily ranting, but once she realized he was talking about the coronavirus, and blaming China and using negative Chinese stereotypes, she recorded a video of him to share on Facebook. Seeing that she was the only Asian person on the bus, she felt attacked and alone. She spoke to NBC saying she wasn’t even Chinese; she’s Thai-American, but with this incident and current spread of the virus, she sees her whole Asian-American community under attack.
In Canada, another woman posted her thoughts and feelings onto her social media after a random man came up to her and her family, telling them that they had “‘dropped [their] coronavirus’” before laughing and walking away. This incident left them confused and uncomfortable. She and her family are Taiwanese Canadian.
While actions like these are not physically violent, they are often unsettling and leave victims afraid of what could have happened next. These two stories are also from Asian women who are often stereotyped to be weak, submissive and quiet, making them an easier target when it comes to harassment.
An increase of online harassment and racist comments have also surfaced, targeting Asians on social media. Jokes and memes have been made with content related to negative Chinese stereotypes, such as statements of “not being surprised that they [Chinese people] have the coronavirus because they eat animals like dogs and bats. When Asians online confront these posts, they get dismissed, and users engaging in this harassment claim it’s just a lighthearted joke.
These jokes, however, are harmful to the Asian community because they shine a negative light on Asian cultures because they don’t seem to fit in with Western society’s standards. Not everyone that is Asian is Chinese, and these stereotypes prevent recognition of different Asian cultures; instead it groups all Asians together, creating one Asian-American identity, when in reality, there are multiple identities and each one has its own complexities. Asian-Americans also face microaggressions more often than one would think, and false stereotypes towards them hurt them in the long run when it comes to self-identity and society’s perception of Asian Americans.
It is understandable that people are trying to be cautious and take care of themselves, but attacking Asians based on how they look, and making racist and stereotypical assumptions are harmful and unnecessary. Raising awareness on the issue of the racism that Asians face and showing support to their community can help them face this heartbreaking outbreak, and maybe make some change on how Asians are perceived along the way.
Featured image graphic by Jiselle Santos.