Coronavirus Pandemic Should Bring Compassion for Asians, Not Contempt

As+the+coronavirus+continues+to+spread%2C+it+is+easy+for+people+to+succumb+to+fear+and+hate+in+order+to+cope+with+the+uncertainty+of+the+next+few+months.+However%2C+labeling+all+Asians+with+a+disease+strips+them+of+their+humanity+and+leaves+them+as+innocent+victims+to+harassment+and+hate+crimes.

Krisha Konchadi

As the coronavirus continues to spread, it is easy for people to succumb to fear and hate in order to cope with the uncertainty of the next few months. However, labeling all Asians with a disease strips them of their humanity and leaves them as innocent victims to harassment and hate crimes.

By Ariana Wu, Portola High School

Since the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, colleges including Chapman University and the University of California, Irvine have suspended in-person instruction, state officials have stopped shaking hands and Americans have flooded department stores to stock up on face masks and hand sanitizer.

In the midst of the chaos, baseless xenophobia targeted against Chinese people and other Asians rapidly risen.

This is no new phenomenon. Throughout history, people have retreated to the faces that resemble theirs for comfort and resorted to hate against “outsiders.”

It’s an “us vs them’ mentality, and so when you have a group of outsiders who are threatening your group, this [mentality] allows the group to band together and to stop fighting between themselves and focus their negative energy towards a group outside of themselves.”

— Katie Wi

“Americans tend to overreact and identify certain ethnic groups with certain issues,” social studies teacher Wind Ralston said. “You could see this after 9/11 when Sikhs were mistaken for any Muslims. I think it’s an irrational fear….consistent throughout American history as well as world history. People tend to fear what they don’t understand.”

This fear has been developing into acts of hate towards Asians, including physical attacks, hateful tweets and public harassment. Tanny Jiraprapasuke, a Thai American woman, was singled out on a Los Angeles subway and harassed simply for her East Asian appearance, according to CNN.

“Humans like to find comfort in forming groups because it helps them to feel protected. It’s an “us vs them’ mentality, and so when you have a group of outsiders who are threatening your group, this [mentality] allows the group to band together and to stop fighting between themselves and focus their negative energy towards a group outside of themselves,” psychology teacher Katie Wi said.

Fear is no excuse for hatred. In trying times, the entire world is terrified; however, when this universal concern mutates into hatred and anger, people turn against each other when the world needs to empathize as a community most.

“We can easily dehumanize and sum up Chinese people into just this word or idea or, even worse, associating them with just a disease,” literary and language arts teacher Doris Schlothan said. “When you dehumanize someone, you can easily hurt them because you don’t feel this need to treat them like a human being.”

As 63% of the students at Portola High are Asian according to Public School Review, news of the hate crimes revealing the worst parts of society has personally impacted many on campus. This toxicity will only lead to division as it irrationally places blame on innocent people who are just as scared. It is not only illogical but disgusting to reduce 1.7 billion East Asians to a mere disease.

In times of crisis, we should show compassion instead of bringing people down. We don’t have to be top healthcare professionals to try and contribute something [to resolving the issue]”

— Patrick Cui

“There’s a lot of discrimination going on in our community where people are like, ‘Don’t touch Chinese people,’” senior Patrick Cui said. “I’ve seen stuff on social media where an Asian guy gets beat up because people suspect he has the virus. There’s a lot of misconception going on surrounding the topic.”

Some students from the OC STEAM For All nonprofit have started a campaign called “To China, With Love” in order to raise money for the Hubei Provincial Hospital.

“A lot of us have family members in China who cannot leave their homes. We have relatives who are infected with the virus, so as high school students, we felt like it was our obligation to do something about it,” Cui said. “In times of crisis, we should show compassion instead of bringing people down. We don’t have to be top healthcare professionals to try and contribute something [to resolving the issue].”

There are currently at least 1,663 cases of the virus in the United States, and this is a critical time when humanity needs to prove its empathy and grace. For all that we teach our children about caring for others and loving thy neighbor, it is amazing how hypocritical we can become as soon as we feel threatened.

Besides donating to “To China, With Love” and other organizations, we can all make small changes in our perception of the issue by shifting our lenses from ones of fear and hate to ones of compassion and goodwill.

This story was originally published on Portola Pilot on March 20, 2020.