Being Scared is NOT an Excuse to be Racist

A. Guo, Asst. Editor-in-Chief

The Coronavirus has been a constant feature in top news sites as a potential pandemic threat, and a fatal disease which had already infected 77,000 people globally on February 22nd. The numbers continue to rise, as does fear, but another terrifying result also comes out of this disease: xenophobia.

It’s not hard to find instances of xenophobia and racism online and on social media: “No Chinese allowed” posted outside a Korean restaurant, “Your home nation’s garbage quality of life is a product of your own people’s negligence”, racial slurs on twitter, angry rants on subways, and many more “suspicious looks and nasty comments” have been made towards Chinese people, or really all people who look Eastern Asian. Even the number 1 ranked public school in the entire world, UC Berkeley, has taken their turn, declaring xenophobia as a “common reaction”, and only taking it down after social media outrage

Chinese-American sophomore Emily Chen agrees to seeing the xenophobia online, saying, “One that really struck me is that an old man was beaten up solely because of fears of the Coronavirus.”

Chen also elaborates on why it’s xenophobia, “there are white Americans who actually were evacuated from China because of the Coronavirus. But when people see white Americans on the street, no one treats them differently, because they don’t fit the picture of a carrier of the Coronavirus.”

Xenophobia and different types of stigma have been seen time and time again with the spread of disease. Some examples are when Ebola was spreading in 2014, and there was a public freakout about West Africa, when the HIV was first named the “gay-related immune deficiency”, and when Mexicans and Latinos were scapegoated during the 2009 swine flu. So when the Coronavirus came around, the community, unfortunately, wasn’t so surprised by all of the xenophobia. In fact Chen says, “The sad thing is, my friends and I expected this before it occurred. On the first day back to class, I jokingly texted my friend that if I coughed in class, everyone would stare at me. Unfortunately, this became a reality for some people.”

But some people, like Chinese-American sophomore Andy Gong disagree about how appropriate reactions to the Coronavirus have been, saying, “I personally believe that many people in the Asian community are overreacting to a completely reasonable response to the outbreak.” He argues that, “There is too much of a gray area for non-Asians to determine who actually has the coronavirus and who might be a potential carrier/point of contagion for the coronavirus.”

Gong’s reasons fail to stand as an excuse for the xenophobic comments. How are racial slurs and beating people up reasonable responses? It is not okay to normalize these racist reactions, because that means you’re normalizing racism. Just like the UN Human Rights has said, “It’s understandable to be alarmed by #Coronavirus. But no amount of fear can excuse prejudice & discrimination against people of Asian descent.” In times of vulnerability and safety, we must stand together.

Although these comments and looks seem like small thoughts to brush off, they are exactly what contribute to the norm of hate towards a group of people. They are where misinformation continues to spread, and give people false fear about Chinese people, products, and values. 

So now on top of worrying for our family members’ safety in China, we must worry about the Asian community outside of China? We must worry about people getting threats on streets, when they haven’t even been to China once in their life? We must worry about kids getting bullied in classrooms with yet another stereotype? We must worry about people losing their businesses because of misinformation? We must worry about the disregarded racism that’s fueling the epidemic? 

It is worthy to note that here at Green Level High School, students have not experienced xenophobia. Chen says, “For us in Cary, I believe we have it better off. Our community is generally more diverse than many other areas of the country. People here understand that some of us Asians haven’t been back to China in years.” On top of that, both Gong and Chen have said they have never experienced any xenophobic or racist comments regarding the coronavirus outbreak. This is only to say, our community has more power to help others.

So let’s tell people to stop worrying about getting the Coronavirus from a random stranger who has never been to China or getting scared about a fortune cookie made and sold in America, and to start washing their hands so they don’t get the flu.