Discrimination against China and Chinese people is not new – Sinophobia and anti-Asian hate is a well-documented phenomenon that has existed for centuries. But the varied ways it has manifested during the coronavirus crisis reveal the increasingly complex relationship the world has with China right now. But it’s not just Chinese nationals that are taking the brunt of the racism virus it’s also east and south-east Asians who are being attacked maliciously. 

In light of the mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia targeting Asian women working in spas, many have spoken up about how we have let anti-Asian hate fester for too long. 

Many are quick to brand anti-Asian hate as a uniquely American issue. But lots of European and western-centric countries need to open their eyes and address the Asian hate going on behind their own doors. 

It’s time to look at the hate crimes all around us, from the “harmless” ignorant hate speech to the hate crimes popping up around Europe, many of which are going unreported. We need to ensure we are on the right side of this battle and be an ally to eliminating the racism virus.

Politicians Catalyzing Hate

Many people are quick to dismiss language as harmless and inconsequential but Trump’s incendiary language is the perfect example of how a person in power can incite hatred through a racist and xenophobic sentiment. 

Further drawing the divide, making it an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ narrative, Trump has infamously called the COVID-19 virus the “China virus”, “Kung flu” and “The Wuhan Virus”. This language has not only been used by him but many adopters around the world have started propagating the virus in this way. 

You needn’t look far to find racist language all over social media and news publications. This language does no good for our community and only points the blame further to those who are innocent.

There is a clear link between hate speech and hate violence. The more that politicians, and people in a position of influence, use racist and xenophobic speech the more we normalize and increase the unwelcomeness for our Asian neighbours.

On the left – Cartoon showing Uncle Sam, with proclamation and can of Magic Washer, kicking Chinese out of the United States. Dated 1886. On the right – Illustration by Sebastian Dahlstrom. Dated June 10, 2020.

It is unprecedentedly important not to politicize a virus and attach it to a geographical location because it points blame to those who are blameless. Although many people are quick to bring up the Chinese governments terrible mishandling of the virus in its early days, it is still no excuse to hold a race or one nationality responsible for a pandemic. Hence why the WHO made sure to name the virus appropriately COVID-19 or SAR-COV-2 so as to not associate a country to the name and thus incite stigma and hatred.

But it’s not just American’s passing around anti-Asian racist sentiments, in Italy the governor of Veneto region told journalists early on in the pandemic how hygienic Italians were unlike the Chinese, stating “we have all seen the Chinese eating mice alive”. This kind of speech perpetrates the age-old sentiment of Asian individuals being perceived as unclean and uncivilised by the west. This is just one example of how European officials are also guilty of racist language.

Yellow Peril” in the 19th and 20th century painting Asians as a danger to western existence.

The Hate Crimes

Increases in racist rhetoric have coincided with increases in racist attacks. Since February, Asians and people of Asian descent around the world have been subjected to attacks and beatings, violent bullying, threats, racist abuse, and discrimination that appear linked to the pandemic.

In Italy, the civil society group Lunaria since February has collected over 50 reports and media accounts of assaults, verbal harassment, bullying, and discrimination against people of Asian descent. Human rights and other groups in France, Australia, and Russia have also told the Human Rights Watch of Covid-19-related attacks and harassment of people of Asian descent.

In the UK, Asian people have been punched in the face and taunted, accused of spreading coronavirus. Two women attacked Chinese students in Australia, punching and kicking one and yelling “Go back to China” and “you fucking immigrants.” Two men attacked a Chinese-American in Spain and beat him so badly that he was in a coma for two days.

Stop Hate UK, an anti-racism group, reported in March that it had received increasing numbers of calls or reports of “racism, discrimination, and verbal abuse, arising from perceptions that they are members of the Chinese community.” These are just the tip of the iceberg as many crimes go unreported and uninvestigated, not just in the UK but around the world.

Stand up and Speak out

According to StopAsianHate.Info the best way to tackle the rise in anti-Asian hate is to amplify our voices and speak out when we witness racism, discrimination or racially motivated violence. Furthermore, we should stay informed about the racism persistent in our neighbourhoods, and abroad, by reading about the current crisis of anti-Asian hate and violence. We should raise awareness by sharing information with the media and our social circles, and commit to anti-racist action by volunteering at, donating to, and advocating for all marginalised people.

Down below I have listed more resources and links for further reading, but action can be as simple as just confronting racist comments when you hear them or discussing anti-Asian hate with family and friends. Together we can all make a difference.

Further Reading/Ways to Help:

Don't stop here! If you would like to learn more about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community, you might also want to read "The Other Pandemic"

Author: Jessica Milsom

Jess is a marketer at SPEAK. She is from England, Shanghai, The Netherlands, Taiwan, and now Portugal. But actually, don’t ask her where she is from, it’s a long story. She is a good listener, an open-minded communicator, and a fruitful debater. And her favourite pastime is watching k-pop music videos with a warm cup of tea.

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