The coronavirus has now infected over 100,000 people. Cases in the United States are quickly growing, and the U.S. response has seemed to change from containment to mitigation of the coronavirus. If you, like several others, are fearful of the coronavirus, then you should be washing your hands thoroughly, avoid touching your face, and distance yourself from people that are frequently coughing and sneezing.
What you should not be doing, is distancing yourself from Asians.
Around the world, there has been a notable increase in racist and discriminatory acts against Asians. In Indiana, two Hmong men stopped at a motel to get a room. An employee asked them if they were Chinese and asks them “Ever heard of the coronavirus?” The employees’ reason for probing the two men? It was company policy.
It wasn’t company policy.
In an art fair in the United Kingdom, a Vietnamese art curator had her assistance cancelled. The organizers told the curator her “presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience” and “ fairly or not, Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus”.
Vietnam borders China, the origin of the coronavirus, and despite that, has been credited as one of the best countries dealing with the coronavirus. The World Health Organization and several health experts have applauded the country’s swift response to containing the virus.
These are but a few cases of blatant discrimination against Asians that use the excuse of the fears over the coronavirus. Other cases are more subtle, and more of a slow burn.
I’m walking down Elm St, in downtown Manchester, and I cough once. The person walking towards me gives me a glare, and curves around me as we pass each other to maximize their distance between them and the guy that sort of looks Chinese.
Chinese restaurants and businesses all over the United States are facing severe loss in revenue and traffic. Businesses in New York City’s Chinatown have told the New York Times business has dropped 50% – 70%. Misinformation, overreactions, and xenophobia are straight up shutting down small Chinese businesses. There have been no coronavirus cases in any Chinatown. What is plaguing Chinatowns is not the coronavirus, it’s coronavirus fear.
Am I surprised? Absolutely not. Anti-Asian racism and sentiment is extremely prevalent here in the United States. It’s just never noticed. The coronavirus will eventually subside, and fears about getting sick will be gone in America. Fears of Asian-Americans won’t be. Asians will
never be able to rid the primitive and archaic American thought that Asians are dirty and uncivilized. I’ve been asked hundreds of times over my life, “Have you ever eaten a dog?”, “Do you have dog in your lunchbox?”, “What is that meat? Is that cat?” No, I have never eaten dog meat, and that meat on top of my rice is chicken.
The coronavirus is not an excuse for xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment. It’s already difficult enough to grow up as an Asian-American in the United States. The coronavirus is adding fuel to the fire for Asians everywhere in the U.S. Instead of glaring and avoiding the Asian person in a face mask; wash your hands, thoroughly, with soap, for 20 seconds.