It really shouldn’t have been all that surprising.
In the wake of the SARS epidemic in 2003, vitriol and racism
against Asians and Asian-American spread like… well, you know.
Subway riders refused to sit next to Asian passengers,
businesses turned away Asian customers and shoppers avoided Asian-owned
restaurants and businesses. One report estimated that Asian businesses lost up
to 80 percent of their income that year because of the SARS scare.
And it’s all happening again.
When the coronavirus began to spread and developed into the panic it is now, people inevitably began spreading the same kind of racist nonsense.
Last week, UC Berkley, which has a significant Asian
population (40 percent of undergrads were Asian in fall 2019), shared an
informational post on Instagram that listed common reactions to the virus.
Things like “anxiety,” “feeling helplessness,” and “anger” made the list. Oh,
and “xenophobia: fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and
guilt about these feelings,” was also included.
As to be expected, several readers and students commented on
the post, calling the university out for what was at worst a racist explanation,
and at best an ignorant gaffe. The post was removed almost immediately; the
university issued an apology.
In addition to UC Berkley’s social media blunder, multiple
Asians and Asian-Americans are reporting instances of racism in real life.
In an article
by the Los Angeles Times, one man who
works as a cashier recounted how a recent customer asked him to get them a new
product when his hand touched the one he was bagging. When the Asian employee
asked the customer why, they responded with, “Because you touched it.”
On social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, insensitive
memes and viral videos have taken to making Chinese people and those of Asian
descent out to be crazed, bat-eating, infection-spreading heathens.
It’s truly a tale as old as white supremacy.
Anti-Asian sentiment, much like any other anti-non-white
people sentiment, is entrenched as part of the painful history of our country.
Remember the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? When the United States straight up
banned an entire ethnic group from coming to this country? And then the
Immigration Act of 1917 and 1924 when they excluded anyone from “Asiatic Barred
Zones” from migrating here? Throughout the centuries, Asians, more often than
not Chinese people, have been scapegoated for bringing diseases upon the world
because of all the “weird” foods that we eat.
But if you look at the numbers, it doesn’t make any sense.
While there have been more than 20,000 confirmed cases of
the coronavirus across the world, most of them are concentrated in China, and
there have been only 427 deaths. Only 11 confirmed cases have been reported in
the United States.
On the other hand, just this season the CDC has reported
more than 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from the flu. The flu. And that’s just in the United States.
And yet here we are, surrounded by a bunch of white folks who don’t vaccinate their kids.
During the 2017-2018 flu season, only four out of 10 adults
in the United States got a flu shot, making it the lowest rate in seven
seasons. That season ended up being one of the deadliest in decades, with more
than 80,000 deaths from the infection.
So why are people so afraid of the coronavirus when the flu
has been killing more and more people by the week?
Plain and simple: racism!
People are afraid of the exotic, the new, the other. And
it’s happening now.
But the next time you see an Asian with a face mask and you
feel concerned, maybe worry more about the 4-year-old with the snot running
down their face instead.
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