As the coronavirus spreads, it brings along two other diseases — racism and xenophobia.
The coronavirus has everybody on high alert. Hand sanitizers are out of stock, people are piling up on toilet paper, some are even hosing down their children with Purell before they enter the house.
All of these behaviors are understandable and expected and come with this kind of pandemic. With the craziness and chaos that COVID-19 brings, there are some people who exploit the widespread fear and take out their hate on others.
The coronavirus is not an excuse to be racist toward people of Asian descent.
I get it, it’s scary. The coronavirus is new, it’s foreign, and there hasn’t been an official vaccine released yet, but calling out racial slurs, telling Asians to get out of this country and physically beating them up isn't going to magically cure the world from this virus.
Anytime I turn on the news or I open up Twitter, I see a new video or article showing another heinous attack on yet another Asian. One video in particular was of a young man named Jonathan Mok. This 23-year-old student from Singapore was brutally beaten up in London by a group of people whose only excuse for their crime was, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”
The incident was covered by many news outlets and was even featured on CNN. Many people stood in support of Mok and along with his gratitude, he shared some insightful thoughts about racism through a Facebook post.
“Racism is not stupidity — racism is hate.” Mok said. “Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred — and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse.”
Regarding the perpetrators, I won’t take the “Oh, they’re just scared” idea as justification because if they were afraid of contracting the coronavirus, they wouldn’t have deliberately come into contact and put their fists on Mok’s face.
Knowing the disease is spread through contact is one of the first things we learn about infectious diseases. What these people did to Mok wasn’t because they were trying to protect themselves from the virus, they saw an opportunity to racially discriminate and then blame it on the coronavirus.
The coronavirus isn’t just affecting Asian people, it is also affecting Asian businesses. I went to Rowland Heights recently to enjoy some delicious Asian food. Rowland Heights is sort of known for its wide variety of Asian restaurants, predominately Chinese restaurants.
As I entered the 99 Ranch Market — a place that offers different Asian restaurants and stores along with a grocery market — on a Friday evening, I noticed that the entire market was practically empty. The stores were closed at 6:30 p.m. and the restaurants had a plethora of empty tables.
Many Asian business are shutting down due to the lack of attendance and employees are forced to find new jobs.
An interesting thought came to me — China is basically shut down from the virus, but so is Italy. Chinese restaurants face slow business and hard times, while I see people gorging themselves with gnocchi and bread. I even saw on the news that a fake flyer in Los Angeles with a very convincing World Health Organization seal warned people to stay away from Asian-American businesses in fear of contracting COVID-19.
This act of racism affects how people treat Asians. They put false accusations in people’s heads and the public believes it out of fear.
But when will it stop?
I fear that when medical officials announce they have a vaccine, that the xenophobia won’t come to end. I fear that the people have gotten used to a certain way of avoiding us and discriminating against us that they won’t be able to treat us with respect.
Asian people are not the enemy and treating us like we are is spreading the disease even further — I’m not talking about the coronavirus.