Scapegoating Asians for the pandemic is not acceptable

Uplifting not discriminating will fight the virus

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Lindsey Rodman

Assistant News Editor Melissa Dai writes that "Chinese Virus" is not an acceptable name for COVID-19 as it paints a false narrative that Asians drive the spread of the virus.

Melissa Dai, Assistant News Editor

When viruses spread, they don’t discriminate against certain ethnicities. But people do. Since its outbreak, the current global pandemic has time and again exposed lurking anti-Asian beliefs in a completely unjustified upsurge of racism around the world. 

Yes; COVID-19, or the coronavirus, originated in Wuhan, China and has spread all over the world since. 

But does that mean every single Chinese person is responsible for its spread? Absolutely not. 

Does that mean every single person of Chinese descent is responsible? Absolutely not. 

Does that mean every single person of Asian descent is responsible? Absolutely not.

This should be obvious. However, since the emergence of the virus, numerous people have completely ignored this sensible logic and developed a twisted scapegoat ideology of their own in which all Asians—not just Chinese people, but all Asians—are responsible for the pandemic. Consequently, anti-Asian sentiment has drastically risen all around the world.

Certain incidents may indicate that the outbreak of the coronavirus triggered this racism. This is not true; this outbreak has merely uncovered people’s existing but underlying prejudice against Asians by giving them the opportunity to blame the virus on Asians and justify their acts of racism.

Take President Donald Trump, for example, who has shown clear signs of being racist in the past. Recently, he has repeatedly used the term “Chinese virus” when referring to the coronavirus in numerous tweets, even going so far as to publicly defending this terminology in a press conference on March 18. His comments have evoked shock and outrage from many.

And these reactions are undeniably justified. 

By calling it the “Chinese virus” instead of the only three acceptable names: COVID-19, coronavirus and novel coronavirus, Trump is essentially targeting China as the sole cause of the spread of the pandemic. In this twisted scapegoat philosophy, Trump and people like him blame China and everyone of Asian descent for the emergence and spread of the coronavirus. Now, the same ignorant people are alienating them as some type of unwarranted revenge tactic. 

Aside from the racist names, a common form of this alienation consists of subtle, everyday actions, whether it may be jokes, comments or even prolonged, accusatory looks. In many circumstances, these actions aren’t even about blame; many people are also verbally and non-verbally suspicious of Asians because they somehow believe that Asians are more susceptible to carrying or having the coronavirus. Keep in mind, these Asians usually live in the same area and breathe the same air as those suspicious people.

As a Chinese American myself, I have frequently been the victim to these acts of racism ever since the outbreak of the virus, just like most other Asians. Before quarantine, I constantly noticed others, desperate for anyone or anything to blame for this global crisis, shooting suspicious glances at me and making sure to distance themselves further away from me compared to everyone else. 

Now, in quarantine, I’m realizing that I’m not only isolating myself from COVID-19; I’m also isolating myself from these small yet significant acts of racism that have spread along with the virus. 

Recently, this discrimination has also turned physical and escalated to overwhelming extents with more and more cases around the world involving people blaming, and often violently assaulting, Asians for the virus merely because of their ethnicity. 

One such incident involved a Singaporian student named Jonathan Mok who was assaulted in London on Feb. 24 by four men shouting: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country!” The outright ignorance that these four people must have to harass a single innocent man for an entire global pandemic is utterly shocking. 

Most people probably have never brutally assaulted Asians because of the coronavirus. Most Asians probably have never been assaulted because of the virus. However, to me, the minor acts of racism are just as powerful as physical assault. A racist comment about the pandemic is a punch to the gut; an accusatory stare and a sidestep away is a kick to the ribs. 

This has to stop. All of it. 

The coronavirus is not an excuse for people with existing, underlying racist beliefs to act upon these prejudices. These people must understand their wrongdoings and stop discriminating against Asians. Even if someone doesn’t feel as if they’re being racist, a prolonged, wary look that singles an Asian person out of a crowd is a clear indicator of racism. 

We all must be aware of how certain behaviors toward Asians may be perceived and avoid these racist actions. If we do, we will be one step closer to coming together as a globe to fight this pandemic. During this worldwide catastrophe, it is critical that we focus on uplifting each other instead of discriminating against each other and tearing each other down.