The most celebrated time in Chinese culture, the Lunar New Year, was harshly taken over with precautions against the fast-spreading coronavirus, with over 40,000 cases in less than two months. In China, more than 800 people have died, with numbers quickly rising. President Donald Trump ordered a public health emergency and set quarantine parameters in response to cases in the United States.
In the United States, people have come hyper-vigilant against the disease, taking plenty of precautions to stay healthy. Some of these are normal, like wearing surgical face masks, washing their hands more frequently, and staying indoors.
Unfortunately, some other tactics have been racially discriminating. These can include asking Asian-Americans to stay home from normal events, microaggressions towards Asian-Americans they pass by, or assuming every Asian-American has contracted the coronavirus.
“Just because we’re Asian doesn’t mean we have it,” Rosalind Vo said in an interview with The Inquirer, referencing people on the train looking at her strangely since the coronavirus has spread. Asian-Americans around the country have experienced a hike in racial profiling in response to the outbreak.
“Just because we’re Asian doesn’t mean we have it.” -Roslind Vo
Twitter has been full of race-driven jokes, like blaming the eating habits of Chinese citizens, spraying your package from China with Lysol, or assuming James Corden will die from the virus after dancing with the K-Pop band BTS. Big cities have seen local businesses in Chinatown lose a lot of business. Public transportation has especially been a hot spot for prejudice, with people moving down a seat when someone of Asian descent sits next to them. Businesses are putting up signs asking that Chinese people don’t come inside. Why do we assume a virus originating in China is inherently Chinese?
It’s normal to get a little extra paranoid when a new sickness starts spreading, especially because there’s so much we don’t know. But when that paranoia turns to xenophobia, a line must be drawn.
We saw similar problems with Ebola back during the 2014-2016 outbreak. But it didn’t stop at microaggressions. Instead, we saw a disparity in medical treatment, shifting the blame to our first African-American president, and a lot of assumptions about African-Americans that disrupted their daily routines.
Even with a high diversity rate on our campus, we are not immune to the ideas of racism and xenophobia. Students need to be mindful of how they’re perceiving Asian countries, cultures, and anything related. We need to especially be mindful of how we’re perceiving and treating Asian students on our campus and remembering that they most likely are not carrying the coronavirus.
Please remember that your fellow students are probably just as worried as you are, but your Asian-identifying peers have another level of worry if we give in to the racism and xenophobia. We are safe here, and fueling our fears with hate only makes our campus harder to live on.