By Anisha Parida
The outbreak of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, has given rise to numerous issues around the world aside from medical problems. From stock market swings to nationwide quarantines in countries like Italy, the world has been greatly affected by this disease. And with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 to be a global pandemic on Wednesday March 11, leaders around the globe have taken precautionary measures to slow down the spread of the disease. In our own country, professional sports, such as the NBA, have suspended their seasons. Statewide, all K-12 schools are closed for the rest of this school year- utilizing remote learning. Manheim Township High School has even canceled finals.
With the increase in awareness of this disease, however, accounts of racism and xenophobia towards Asians have begun to flood the media, and it isn’t something we haven’t seen before. Singling out a group to blame for big issues has seemed to be a pattern in history since the beginning of time. Humans have progressed in so many ways, from technological innovations to advances in medicine. So why is it still acceptable to treat people differently based on the color of their skin, their country of origin, or any other type of discrimination? COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, so why should we?
When the outbreak first arose, it reopened the door for anti-Asian discrimination, which has been prevalent all throughout history. It is argued that COVID-19 is just another excuse for xenophobia and racist individuals to voice their opinions once again. Many individuals liken the reaction of this virus to that of the SARS outbreak in 2003. During that time, racism towards Asians began to rise. The Washington Post reported an estimate that Asian-owned small businesses lost up to 80 percent of their income during that year. Quite similarly, discrimination against Asians as a result of SARS’s cousin, COVID-19, has resulted in both physical and verbal attacks of Asians around the globe.
A 23-year-old student at University College London, Jonathan Mok, was attacked by a sixteen year old and a fifteen year old while walking down Oxford Street. The teenage boys shouted to Mok, who is from Singapore, “We don’t want your coronavirus in our country,” as they proceeded to physically abuse him. Mok later posted on Facebook pictures of himself after being punched and kicked. He claims he may even have a broken bone in his face. In Irving, Texas, a man named Lang Nguyen stood in line to vote during the Texas caucus and began to choke on his water. A woman then scolded the man for being sick. After he assured her he was not, she said to him, “All you Asian people are spreading that coronavirus.”
The negative stigma that has arisen as a result of the COVID-19 has caused global health organizations to address this problem. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out this statement on their website: “It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent – who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other Americans.” It is important to note that COVID-19, which is officially a pandemic, can spread from any part of the world- not just China where it originated from.
At Sin-Paulus Campus College Waregem, a Dutch-language secondary school located in Belgium, students recently dressed up in stereotypical Chinese fashion- wearing conical hats and even panda costumes. They snapped a photograph and posted it on the school’s Instagram. In the photo, a girl was even seen pulling at the corner of her eyes to emphasize the Asian stereotype of small eyes. Another student in the photo wore a face mask and latex gloves, holding up a sign that read “Corona Time.” While the post was taken down, individuals from around the globe were outraged by this act of racism. The school has not released any statements since the incident, they have only changed their instagram profile from public to private, likely in order to reduce the amount of backlash they would receive from these outraged individuals.
With all of the hate and panic that COVID-19 has brought, there are still positives that we should try and look for in such troubling times. There are numerous stories about acts of kindness from people around the world helping however they can to combat this crisis, including a campaign called “#WashTheHate” whose aim is to raise awareness and help combat the racism faced by Asians around the globe as a result of this pandemic.While the worldwide death toll, as of Sunday, May 3, is 248,285, it is important to not let the fear that this disease has instilled upon us consume every aspect of life. This Coronavirus has, in a way, helped to unify everybody around the globe — despite political and cultural differences; we’ve all had to put these differences aside to fight one common enemy.
The world is in a state of emergency, and we are living through history. This could very well be a generation defining moment in history. When we look back on this situation, many years from now, we are going to remember the heroes- the doctors, nurses, delivery workers, friendly neighbors, and everyone who put themselves at risk in the hopes of saving others. We are going to grow from these troubling times, appreciate the lives we have now, and not take anything for granted. It is of course going to be scary, but we must remember to stay positive and focus on what we can control, not what we cannot. Take time to thank your loved ones, and perhaps time off can let you acquire new hobbies and goals for the future.