In early December, the World Health Organization was alerted of an unknown flu-like virus spreading in the Chinese province of Wuhan. Today, this virus, COVID-19, has become a global crisis affecting the lives of billions. But as communities work to seek solutions for the pandemic, another, perhaps equally sinister aspect of the virus, remains unaddressed: the growing spread of racism.
Since the onset of the breakout, racist incidents against Chinese people have skyrocketed across the world. According to CNN, media outlets have increasingly portrayed Chinese people as “biological supervillains”. Even members of the academic community have perpetuated xenophobic narratives. For instance, in a 2007 study of the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a medical anthropologist at the University of Arizona stated “In Asia, many people eat bats or use bat feces in traditional medicine.” Western communities have ultimately failed to recognize the cultural significance and socioeconomic factors surrounding the outbreak, and instead have turned to racist implications.
Alongside degrading media publications, a number of verbal and physical assaults have been reported. In New York City last month, a man publicly shouted at a Chinese woman wearing a face mask, calling her “diseased [expletive].” In another case, a man verbally attacked several Chinese people in a Los Angeles subway saying, “every disease has come from China.” With all of these cases, it seems that coronavirus is rapidly uncovering anti-asian racism.
As this anti-Chinese sentiment spreads, how much has infected the Northwest School community? Students have reported witnessing members of our community saying phrases such as, “The Chinese are Coming!” and other racist jokes in casual conversations. In order to prevent further xenophobia in our community, Julia W., a senior and an international student, constructed an anti-racist coronavirus video that was played at one of our last Community Meetings. In a recent interview, she was able to further elaborate on her mission of creating this video.
Interviewer: Why did you want to make the video?
Julia: I wanted to make this video in order to share the message that China is already experiencing a hard time right now to fight against the coronavirus, but there are still some people in other countries who discriminate and even hurt Chinese people. I wanted to emphasize the fact that we are not the virus, and therefore there should be no hostility exercised towards Chinese people. Chinese people are not your enemies, the virus is.
Interviewer: What are the opinions that you have heard during the process?
Julia: Some students didn’t understand my intention in making this video, while other students thought their experiences were not legitimate or important enough to be shared, which I understood.
Interviewer: Were people willing to be in the video? Why or why not?
Julia: Most of them were, but there were a few who refused. For those people who were willing to be in the video, they wanted to share their experiences and speak out against anti-Chinese discrimination; however, for people who were not willing to be filmed, they either just didn’t want to be filmed in a video or they thought their experiences were not supportive enough to stand out.
Interviewer: What do you think that the NWS community should know?
JW: The intended audience for this video is not limited to the Northwest community; anyone is encouraged to watch it, especially those who have adopted bias towards Chinese people over the issue of coronavirus.
How could racism so explicitly attack people in our society? What actions should we take in the future? All of us should reflect on such incidents. The more coronavirus permeates our school, nation, and world, the further racism destructs our own humanity.