By ANA FIERROS
It seems as if talk around COVID-19 has spread faster than the disease itself.
The panic and hysteria has set in. Stores are filled with people stocking up on food and other supplies including the ever sold-out face masks. Musicians are canceling stops on their tours and countries are suspending international travel. Some have even restricted travel outside one’s city.
The disease, which began its rapid spread in China, has brought with it an influx of people who have found an excuse to be xenophobic toward East Asians all over the world.
This disregards the fact that many East Asians living outside of China may not have ever stepped foot in China (much less recently) or may not even be Chinese.
Widespread ignorance and wrong information fuel physical and verbal attacks as minor as crossing the street when faced with someone who appears East Asian or covering your mouth on the subway.
Even celebrities are revealing their xenophobia. It’s as if COVID-19 has given all racists permission to expose themselves. Summer Walker, for example, posted an outdated video to her Instagram with the caption “people in China seen spreading the coronavirus to the public.” She captioned the two-year-old video with “that’s some trifling ass shit.”
The post generalizes an entire group of people.The misinformation perpetuates a cycle of racism for her 2.4 million followers and even more as the post gets shared across the web. Her post wasnt just xenophobic but also hypocritical.
Walker is notorious for her lack of hygiene. She’s received criticism for admitting to taking “cat baths” where she licks a towel and rubs it all over her skin; her version of a shower.
She’s also received criticism for having the audacity to use East Asian aesthetics in her marketing and videos, appropriating their culture and then using her platform to post something ignorant.
As the virus continues to spread, the violence against East Asians is rising. Jonathan Mok, a Chinese man currently studying in London, recounts his horror story of being physically attacked on a walk. Mok has been living in London for two years and says that three or four men approached him before punching him twice in the face.
One of the men said, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country,” said Mok, according to an article by BBC news “Coronavirus: Teens arrested over ‘racially aggravated’ attack.”
Some of the xenophobia comes in silence, like the silence now engulfing locally owned East Asian restaurants and supermarkets. It’s apparent in the wallets of local business owners when their only means of income has begun to rapidly dwindle.
Some business owners have resorted to texting their regular customers to assure them that none of their employees has visited areas with cases or been to China in a long time. This is done in hopes to revive their customer base.
I was sent a screenshot of a series of texts someone had posted to Twitter anonymously. They had ordered delivery from a local Chinese restaurant but regretted it when they “remembered I could get coronavirus from eating their food.”
The screenshot of texts was from the owner of the restaurant essentially begging them to come out to get their food, they insisted that there was nothing wrong with their delivery guy and that he would wait patiently outside. The anonymous poster explained that they simply didn’t want to deal with them, even though a simple “No, thank you” would have sufficed.
Western media don’t seem to talk enough about the measures East Asian countries are taking to aid their sick citizens and prevent further spread. The Vietnamese government is helping citizens by providing free and proper meals for people in quarantine areas and free groceries for entire neighborhoods on lock down. Visitors from Korea are being provided Korean meals in case they aren’t used to Vietnamese food.
Korea has implemented drive-through testing and has tested over 248,000 and found 8,086 cases. According to national reports by the Korean government, 0.9% of those cases have ended in death. Cities in Korea have begun implementing self-quarantine backed by pension from their jobs and the government. No one there is afraid of losing their jobs or running out of toilet paper.
Twitter user (@)mqmqqmqm described a phone call she had with her cousin who lives in China. She was telling them that she needed groceries, but the stores were empty and she didn’t want to break her quarantine.
“Just call the police department to bring you groceries,” said the cousin. She replied “they don’t do that and they all carry guns, which scares me.”
The cousin experienced a moment of culture shock and asked, “All of the police in the U.S. carry guns?”
Despite being one of the most advanced countries in medicine and one of the richest countries in the world, we’re falling far behind the measures East Asian countries are taking. Yet the hatred against them rises as if the disease was created and distributed in bottles by them. No one is at fault for the outbreak and certainly not those, like daca recipients, who were raised in the United States from a young age and have had little to no contact with their native countries.
This surge of racism is not new in states of emergencies. There’s not enough time or space to recount the horrors the Muslim population encountered after 9/11. Though most had nothing to do with what had happened it was enough to hear that the terrorists were Middle Eastern to begin endangering the lives of muslim people. It got so severe for some that men shed their beards and turbans to avoid verbal and physical abuse. Some went as far as changing their names in order to get jobs and other opportunities that were being taken away from them. According to an article by Lydia O’Connor, “How 9/11 Changed these Muslim American’s Lives Forever,” Zainab Chaudry, the Maryland Director for the Council on American–Islamic Relations, said her dad called her and asked her to remove her hijab out of fear for her safety on the day of 9/11.
At least, when violence and xenophobia raised for Muslim Americans after 9/11, then-President George W. Bush discouraged intolerance of Muslim Americans. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has continuously used language like “The Chinese Virus” in virtually every press conference despite health experts denouncing the racist term.
The world is full of racism. We’ve known that forever, and those of us who understand and abhor it continuously fight to create a world without it. We fight to rip racism from those in positions of power orpositions with a high following. Maybe this isn’t a time meant for fighting but rather helping.
If you find yourself out of toilet paper or water, if you’re hungry and craving fast food or food you didn’t cook in your own kitchen, if you want to go to a restaurant or to shop, consider going to a local East Asian shop. Their stores are empty, and in much more need than large corporations.
Consider lending your East Asian neighbors a hand and letting them know that they are not alone and that you’re with them. It’s what the world needs.