The Patsy of the Pandemic
It is no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected racial minority groups around the world. However, one group has explicitly been the world’s punching bag for the past year. The initial months of the pandemic were especially tumultuous as violence against Asian people and those of Asian descent became increasingly more prominent. In the words of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the pandemic “unleash[ed] a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.” These words could not be more accurate, as the past year has been an inescapable and torturous time for the people of Asia and Asian descent in every corner of the world. Citizens in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, and North America have all participated in anti-Chinese rhetoric and violence. In South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, Chinese discrimination has become increasingly predominant, while other parts of the world have decided that anyone of Asian descent is worthy of hatred.
According to an associate director at the China Africa Research Initiative, prejudice against Asian people - specifically Chinese people- is not new in Africa but has become more hostile during the pandemic. In March of 2020, for example, a video circulated of an angry crowd in Kenya screaming at a pair of people of Asian descent. The crowd yelled, “You are corona! You are corona!” and even threatened the pair with violence. In South Africa, a prominent broadcaster reported hearing comments regarding Coronavirus as a virus that only affects white Europeans and the Chinese as “payback for the histories of colonialism and racism.” Meanwhile, Europeans are also using those from Asia and of Asian descent as scapegoats and punching bags for the pandemic.
Throughout the United Kingdom, the rate of hate crimes against those from Asia and of Asian descent has tripled compared to 2019 and 2018. Victims have reported being coughed on, spat at, and verbally abused. Profanities are commonly screamed, with many abusers escalating to physical violence. One man was assaulted, ridiculed, and robbed in the middle of a main street while onlookers ignored him and left him on the ground in a puddle of his own blood. One student reported having fruit thrown at him from a moving car, and another posted photos after an attack in which he was punched repeatedly in the face. The physical abuse that those of Asian descent have received in the United Kingdom has become unprecedented. This increase in violence is not only higher in the United Kingdom; other countries reported similarly high rates in the initial months of the pandemic.
In Australia, the first two weeks of April 2020 saw 178 reported racist physical incidents by Asian people and Asian-Australian victims as well as verbal abuse, including “death to dog eaters,” “asian dogs brought Coronavirus here,” and an incident where one family’s home was even vandalized with the words “COVID-19 China die” and “leave and die.” In the United States, racist attitudes towards people from Asia and Asian-Americans have also increased. Over 1,000 incidents of racism, hate speech, and physical attacks were reported by the end of April, with at least 125 of them being violent physical attacks. The verbal and physical abuse does not only end with the citizens of these countries, however. Even government officials have used anti-Asian, specifically anti-Chinese, rhetoric even though they should be the ones encouraging acceptance within their countries and discouraging hate speech by their citizens.
One Kenyan parliament member posted on Facebook that he believed the citizens of Kenya had the right to stone and chase away Chinese visitors; as President of the United States Donald Trump frequently used the terms “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus”; and the Brazilian education minister once tweeted that the Chinese government had purposefully created the Coronavirus as part of the “plan for world domination.”
Fast forward to the present day, almost one full year into the world-wide pandemic, and these racist attitudes have not subsided. Violence against those from Asia and those of Asian descent continues to make headlines across the globe. Moving forward, this ignorance can no longer be ignored nor tolerated. This pandemic has affected each part of the globe and has not discriminated against any person- and neither should we. The only way to move through this challenging year is to do it all together- socially distanced, of course.