By Renee Phan
In January, the world began to hear of atypical pneumonia cases coming out of Wuhan China. As the days passed on by, new developments from the World Health Organization arose. It had originated in a wet-market, and a novel-coronavirus had caused the outbreak. Furthermore, it was quickly spreading in and around the Hubei province. In February, nations began to place travel restrictions in an effort to protect their citizens from the outbreak. Although many were able to prevent coronavirus cases, a multitude of nations began to report their first overseas cases – including Singapore towards the end of January. In March, schools had already shut down, and millions began to work from home, but the virus was still spreading. Researchers desperately started looking into an antiviral cure to stop the spread once and for all. However, unlike SARS, COVID-19 was not projected to die out anytime soon.
However, at the same time, a growing concern among the Asian community arose. There was an exponential increase in bigotry against Asians globally, seemingly fueled by the pandemic’s Chinese origin. Waves of racially motivated hate crimes against Asians were reported in Australia, Europe, the Middle East, America, and even Asian nations themselves. It also hit close to home. A Singaporean man was beaten up in London with abusers yelling, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country!”.
These cases are not the first time our Asian community has experienced this kind of racist behavior. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused another problem we Asians have to face. It poses a health threat to our community and our safety, especially for East Asians. Globally, individuals have begun to associate this pandemic with the Asian cohort. Just because this coronavirus originated from a Chinese origin, does not mean that ALL Asians carry this virus.
However, ‘all Asians carry the virus’ is precisely the message the President of the United States has put out. As an Asian-American, my fears had only gotten worse when I watched the President of the United States call the virus ‘Kung-Flu’ among other names not created by the WHO such as ‘Wuhan-virus’ or ‘Chinese-virus.’ As a world leader with a global audience, the message he put out exacerbated treatment towards all Asians and has ripped apart an old wound, reminding Asian-Americans that we are seen as foreigners in our own home.
This pandemic has confirmed my belief that everyone, regardless of age, race, or background, must take the time to educate themselves and identify our microaggressions and implicit biases. We, as an Asian community, cannot let this virus define us as individuals. We cannot allow those in power to continue perpetuating stereotypes on the international stage. We also have to recognize our tendencies to draw conclusions when looking at someone of color, Asian or not. Moreover, ‘not-our-fight’ should not be an option anymore. COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement must stand as a reminder that everyone must recognize that no one should be mistreated or stereotyped against due to their skin color. This is such a simple statement, but it must continuously be said as a reminder.
Racial equality is a hard fight, but it is as simple as reaching out a hand, saying sorry, educating yourself, and filtering out what racist organizations, individuals, and people in power say and do. Instead, call them out, hold them accountable, and remind the world that COVID-19 is not a label for the Asian race.
“Covid-19 Fueling Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia Worldwide.” Human Rights Watch, 28 June 2020, http://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/12/covid-19-fueling-anti-asian-racism-and-xenophobia-worldwide.
Sullivan, Rory. “Young Man Beaten up by Racist Attackers Shouting about Coronavirus in London.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 3 Mar. 2020, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/racist-attack-coronavirus-news-london-facebook-a9371326.html.
“Timeline of WHO’s Response to COVID-19.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2020, http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/29-06-2020-covidtimeline.
Writer, Staff. “We Are Not COVID-19: Asian Americans Speak out on Racism.” Nikkei Asian Review, Nikkei Asian Review, 9 May 2020, asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Coronavirus/We-are-not-COVID-19-Asian-Americans-speak-out-on-racism.
“Donald Trump Calls COVID-19 ‘Kung Flu’ at Rally.” Coronavirus Pandemic | Al Jazeera, 29 June 2020, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/newsfeed/2020/06/donald-trump-calls-covid-19-kung-flu-rally-200629091258959.html.
Renee Phan is a 15-year-old Vietnamese-American currently residing in Singapore. She loves spending her free time reading newspapers in its entirety, attending Model United Nations conferences, and scrolling through Pinterest. It was only until recently where Renee discovered her love for writing after penning her first op-ed essay while slurping down a bowl of pho:)