Opinion: Coronavirus isn’t an excuse for blatant racism


Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain

With Covid-19 originating in China, racism has been shown to focus on that general geographical area; however, people aren’t just attacking the Chinese, they’re attacking anyone that looks Asian. WSPN’s Atharva Weling and Brasen Chi argue that the racism caused by Covid-19 is spreading faster than the actual virus itself.

Atharva Weling and Brasen Chi

It was called “The Yellow Peril.” Chinese immigrants flooded into the United States during the latter half of the 19th century, enticed by the possibilities of striking it rich mining gold or just earning a living building railroads. White Americans reacted with unadulterated xenophobia. Lynchings of Chinese-Americans and destruction of Chinese homes were commonplace in the mining towns of the western frontier. Eventually, the federal government succumbed to the wave of intolerance sweeping the nation and passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, barring any Chinese laborers from entering the country.

Over time, this hateful sentiment waned as public opinion shifted towards racial tolerance and acceptance of immigrants. Our country now prides itself as standing out on the global arena as a beacon of diversity and ethnic brotherhood, but the truth is that we are just as susceptible to bias now as we were all those years ago. Asians both in the United States and across the world are once again under threat from prejudice, not due to competition for jobs or resources, but global panic surrounding the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.

Blatant racism towards Asian people has spread just as fast as the virus itself. People across the world are targeting Asians of all nationalities, not just Chinese people, attacking them both verbally and physically. Subreddits like r/racism are filled with examples. u/Yan167 summarized their experience as a horrendous one.

“It’s like if you’re Asian, you are the problem. You carry the virus,” u/Yan167 wrote. “Now the virus seems to be used as an easy excuse for ‘justified’ racism and assaults.”

In just one day in Exeter, UK, there were three racist coronavirus attacks on Asian teens. They were punched, kicked and spat on all just because they were Asian. Evidence of these hate crimes are in London too. A high school in Belgium actually posted on its social media an image of their students dressed in “traditional Chinese clothes” while holding a sign stating “Corona time!” There have been instances in Brooklyn and Italy, too; the examples are endless and are present all across the world in countries where Asians are the minority. Chinese restaurants in Australia are going out of business because the widespread prejudice means that locals have been scared into not dining there.

But bigoted actions like the ones listed above have done absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of the virus. The truth is that while the virus started in China, it has become extremely prevalent in Europe and the United States, where people of all nationalities are spreading the virus just as much as they suspect Asians across the world are. If they think that by attacking Asians specifically, they will make progress towards a safer world, they are sorely mistaken.

However, the sad truth is that many of these people probably know that their actions are not contributing to any greater effort to contain coronavirus. As the Reddit user above suggested, the disease is not a cause for racism, but a pretext for it. “The Yellow Peril” never truly ended, it simply faded out of the limelight. Anti-Asian sentiment has been present ever since then, and now people who harbor such sentiments have a justification for their beliefs and a greater will to act on their prejudice.

Regardless of what these people may do or say, we have to realize that their ideas and their efforts are not acceptable in our country. We have worked tirelessly to promote our nation as the bedrock of equality, and that must remain true even when the easiest course of action to take is to blame someone for our troubles. In fact, it is in our most trying times that our true intentions come to light, and it is in this darkest hour in world history that we must band together as one people to save ourselves rather than encourage hate against any particular segment of the population.

We are in a crisis of unbelievable proportions right now. As the virus spreads, public fear has grown accordingly. Grocery store shelves are being emptied as people enter self-quarantine and schools across the country, like ours, are shutting down for weeks in an effort to prevent any widespread transmission. But rather than submit to our most primitive instincts of hostility and fear-mongering, we must press on through love and courage. We will overcome this virus, and our country will be given a new chance to finally resolve the animosity that lies at the core of our national identity. In doing so, “The Yellow Peril” will finally come to an end.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.