“Everyone knows Chinese people are disgusting; they’ll eat any type of animal — they’re dirty,” is a staple of the backward Anti-Asian sentiments being spread during the Coronavirus outbreak, lifted from a four minute film from Katherine Oung’s Coronavirus Racism Infected My High School.
Historically, the pandemic of diseases has always led to the persecution of others, be it the Irish “cholera-bringers” or the French “syphilis-havers” or the Jewish “plague-givers.”
In the 1870s, “Yellow Peril” was the fear of Chinese immigrants which spawned in the United States from the growing Asian population on the West Coast, which became so bad that 500 Chinese people were murdered during the Chinese massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles.
And now present-day Americans spit on, harass, and bully Asian and Asian-Americans due to fears surrounding the novel coronavirus, based around the same twisted sentiments that Asian people are filthy, decrepit, or uncivilized.
Amid coronavirus panic in New York City, where hospitals can lose 13 patients over the course of a single day to COVID-19, an Asian woman was punched in the face outside a building in Manhattan by a woman she had known, and even gone to school with — she shouted anti-Asian slurs prior to fleeing the attack.
Disease as a motivation for hate crimes, it isn’t original and it isn’t new, but it is damaging all the same, and the maltreatment of Asian people is xenophobia that should be unacceptable by American ideals, yet itself is a tradition held since the beginning of America’s history.
Racism itself is a socially-transmitted disease, and is believed to be the cause of racial disparity regarding low birthweight and even infant mortality, and stress from racism can evolve into childhood chronic stress, which can lead to changes in hormones in the body and cause inflammation of the body.
So even if the Asian people accused of having COVID-19 are healthy, the accusations and name-calling is sure to make them and their children ill and certain to have nothing short of damaging results.
But even if Americans as a culture can unite in a way which promotes serenity among the people with no bias for race (an imaginary utopia only foreseeable in fantasy at the moment), they will still have to worry for their government, which is actively trying to promote xenophobia through the advocacy of the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus.”
Jesse Watters of Fox News was censured by Beijing due to his comment that the Chinese should “issue a formal apology,” yet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agrees with the political commentator and believes to reprimand the Chinese by designating the virus as the “Wuhan virus”. And seemingly, his insistence on the Chinese origin of Coronavirus has influenced Donald Trump, who referred to the virus as Coronavirus for months, to begin marking it the “Chinese virus,” with a speech written by him even crossing out Corona to replace it with Chinese.
The World Health Organization even advises against naming viruses or diseases after geographic locations due to the panic and prejudices that result from doing so, as seen from diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish Flu, or Japanese encephalitis — it seems in every case that the connection of a disease to a place will scare people, encourage ignorance, and provoke xenophobia.
So, America has not only a cultural problem to resolve, but an administration problem — the racism that has engulfed American cities and towns has an effect on everyone, breeding fear among the masses and planting ideas in Asian peoples’ minds that they are somehow inferior, somehow inherently dirty, when the truth is:
They’re not any more at risk than you.
This story was originally published on BASH Cub on March 26, 2020.