Mistreatment of Asian-Americans spikes as a result of coronavirus pandemic

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President Donald Trump, who infamously deems the coronavirus as the "China virus"

Alex Martinez, News Editor

With events as serious as the coronavirus pandemic, tensions grow high, which is destined to lead to serious social ramifications. In the United States, there has been a reported increase in the mistreatment towards Asian-Americans. This can be attributed to both the virus itself originating in Wuhan, China and also the usage of the term “China virus” from President Trump. A sizeable portion of the US seems to accept the notion that Asian-Americans are wholly responsible for COVID-19’s presence in the United States. As a result, people feel that it is appropriate to openly chastise people and treat them poorly simply because of their ethnic background. Interviews conducted across the country by The New York Times found that a substantial number of Asian-Americans feel afraid of being in public places, not of being exposed to the virus but rather facing potential social backlash for something as trivial as ethnicity. Many described being berated in public, others report being spat on, attacked and almost ran over.

In central London, a 23-year-old student named Johnathon Mok reported being brutally beaten by a group of men that said, “we don’t want your coronavirus in our country.” For merely walking in a public place – during a time where there was no quarantine – Mok sustained broken ribs and a broken bone near his right eye that required surgery. The sad reality is that Mok is not alone, thousands of innocent people like him are undergoing similar things and little can be done to deter it. Simply put, the coronavirus is creating anxiety across the world and fairly or not, Asians are perceived as being carriers of the virus. People react to this by treating them poorly. In San Francisco, there have been 1,000 confirmed cases of blatant xenophobia towards Asian-Americans in the streets from January 28 and February 24.

Historically speaking, the current situation is not unprecedented in any way. After the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, American Muslims, Arabs and South Asians faced similar treatment. In a similar fashion, the public associated them with the terrorist attacks and openly mistreated them, doing the same things that are currently happening to Asian-Americans. In times when a country or large group of people is under a great deal of tension and stress, people turn to assign responsibility to others, rightful or not. This occasion is no different, the whole country is afraid for their lives and what the future holds for them. This tends to lead to social injustices, such as the antagonization of Asian-Americans due to the presence of COVID-19 in America.

In an effort to combat this racial tension, the World Health Organization released the official name of the disease as “COVID-19” for a multitude of reasons. The name COVID-19 was picked so that it would not single out any one group of people, to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing and provides a standard format for naming in the event of a future outbreak. A clearer, scientifically based name like COVID-19 reduces potential racial and geological tensions concerning the virus, shifting focus away from blame and towards cooperation in treating the sick and trying to develop a cure.

Nicknames for the virus like “the China virus,” directly enforce racial stigma against Asian-Americans and justify attacks on innocent civilians. It may seem insignificant, but President Trump should at least acknowledge that the nickname demonizes innocent Asian-Americans and as a world leader, use the official name established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in an attempt to retain professionalism and not seek out further chaos.

A new report from the website L1ght, which specializes in measuring online toxicity, found a 900% increase in hate speech towards China and Chinese people on the popular social media platform Twitter. That same report shows that there is a palpable tension considering the epidemic and that the more people read online about the pandemic, the more likely they are to use racial slurs and attribute Asian-Americans as responsible for the epidemic.