Harassment and abuse against Asian people has been around for a long time before the Coronavirus, but it’s gotten worse throughout the pandemic.
Clark Magnet High School sophomore Winnie Ann Masaoy has noticed the growth of slurs against Asian people.
“I think those racial phrases are utterly disrespectful and racist, as Asians have already been criticized for having ‘small eyes’ or being assumed what ethnicity they are because it is said that ‘all Asians look the same,’” Masaoy said. “On top of that, new racial phrases like ‘Your kind brought the virus’ or ‘you eat mice for dinner’ just further perpetuates anti-Asian racism. It’s infuriating and hurtful to constantly hear those kinds of phrases daily. It’s almost as if it is OK to normalize this unwarranted behavior.”
COVID-19 has created challenges for all, from people being unable to meet their friends and family, to constantly wearing masks and cleaning everything, to losing loved ones. Along with these consequences of the virus, racist and xenophobic actions have been on the increase.
Russel Jeung, creator of the report Stop AAPI HateTracker, said that these violent acts must be stopped.
“Acts of racist violence lead to increased anxiety and fear in a population that already has higher rates of anxiety and depression related to COVID-19 than other racial groups,” Jeung said.
Because of this, Jeung created a website called StopAAPIHate where people who have experienced any form of racism during the start of the Coronavirus could report anonymously about their situation and will be added to the Stop AAPI Hate Tracker. As of Dec. 31, 2020, only 259 Asian harassment charges had been reported to StopAPPIHate.
Across the country, more than 2,500 reports were made of Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 between March and September 2020.
National leaders also engaged in comments which many say increased racist hate against Asians. In early March 2020, former President Donald J. Trump in a speech said “China virus/Chinese virus” instead of “Coronavirus.” The then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said the word “Wuhan virus” instead of “Coronavirus.”
These types of comments also spread globally. The Governor of Italy said this statement about China handling the virus: “Culturally strong attention to hygiene, washing hands, taking showers, whereas we have all seen the Chinese eating mice alive.”
Although he did tweet an apology after, his apology ended with him saying that this pandemic is the start of the “Chinese government’s plan for world domination.”
Clark Magnet High School senior Tyra Marie Nicol Quiachon believes that Trump’s response could’ve spread racist dissemination toward Asian people even more.
“I think it was very ignorant of him to call the coronavirus the ‘China virus.’ Giving the virus that nickname, in a way, allowed others to believe that it is justified to racially view the virus,” Quiachon said. “Many people keep the mindset that if one person says it, they can too. I believe him using that nickname only worsened the situation in a different way.”
One Clark Magnet High School student, who wished to remain anonymous, experienced acts of xenophobia and racist slurs in April 2020. This student, who is of Asian descent, said that when their family was walking down the street with masks, they soon got yelled at by two white males supposedly trying to make them uncomfortable.
Not only does this happen in the open, but this student said it happens behind the screen.
During remote learning, for example, they said that classmates would sometimes change their Zoom backgrounds to harmful/rude/offensive images of coronavirus memes connected to China, and teachers wouldn’t do anything about it.
“Even though I am not Chinese, it hurts me knowing actual minorities at our school would so readily attack the Chinese/Asian community. I’m lucky to not have experienced direct racism at school, and I suppose my appearance doesn’t make people think I’m Asian,” they said.
They also said that a Clark teacher called them and another student a “chink” during class.
“I feel like it will take awhile not just for Clark, but for the world to separate Asians and coronavirus, and the ‘valuable’ culture of ‘dark humor’ shows,” they said.
For a couple of months this year, an Asian American family in San Clemente, Calif. had been bothered and harassed by many people going onto their property knocking on their door or even shouting racist slurs. Neighbors around the block decided to stay in front of the family’s home to protect them from those people harassing them.
Clark Magnet High School sophomore Francine Batungbacal does not believe that when this virus ends these kinds of xenophobic acts will end.
“Even before the pandemic, there was always this running joke of making fun of Asians. Making fun of our eyes, our food, everything like that,” Batungbacal said. “And it does hurt to see those things that we get fun made into a trend [fox-eye challenge, wanting to go to Japan, romanticizing certain parts and not all parts of a culture]. It’s been going on for a long time, and, like an ongoing inside joke, this slander will continue. Maybe not at the height that it is today, but definitely sprinkled in, ‘Hey, remember when you Asians started that virus?’”
Celebrities have also been getting their voices heard, speaking out on racist attacks against Asians. In an Instagram livestream last year, rapper Cardi B said “Let’s stop being xenophobic, let’s stop having crazy anger because I’ve been seeing a lot of Asians get beat up. At this moment in life, for once, let’s all be one race. Because at the end of the day, in the eyes of God, we are all one.”
Some even spoke out against Trump’s comments, including actor Mark Ruffalo, who tweeted: “Dear @realdonaldtrump, when you blame a virus on an entire race of people, you turn people against them. When you make these unscientific political statements, some of your followers begin to act violently and in exclusionary, xenophobic ways against these people. Do better.”
Civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen has spoken up about the attacks happening globally in her video, along with her opinion about the whole global situation. Nguyen has said “We matter” and “Racism is killing us,” and “Stop killing us, we are literally fearing for our lives.”
Some have protested against these acts of discrimination. One common quote used to protest is “My ethnicity is not a virus” and “Racism is a virus.” People have created places to donate money to help support Asian communities.
In New York, a donation website has been made to fundraise money for Asian restaurants in Chinatown that have been affected by the coronavirus. Along with that, the Asian Pacific Fund has gained money to support Asians in the Bay Area. In 2020, the Asian Pacific Fund was able to raise $1.25 million from many donors.
News about these kinds of acts has been reported out to the public. NextShark, a website that posts Asian American news, has been holding fundraisers and has been making donations to help individual Asian Americans who have had a rough time during COVID. They have also been supporting Asian American businesses affected by COVID.
In addition, Los Angeles County created a 211 hotline to track any hate situations or bias-motivated hostility that has occurred. Another website the L.A. County has created is the LA vs Hate, which is consulting with the local, county, state and federal law enforcement to help protect not only Asian but also Latino, Armenian and LGBTQ+ communities.