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The COVID-19 Outbreak and How It Affected the Asian Race
The origin of the COVID-19 virus remains unknown, however, records show that the first infections began in Wuhan, China . This fact was relevant in determining the potential cause of the virus, as well as understanding how it can spread to other countries. Unfortunately, this fact also caused detriments to the Chinese and other Asian races. Since the first infections began in Wuhan, individuals from other continents developed the perception that the Asian race is responsible for the pandemic and were potential carriers of the disease. These claims were true even for Asian individuals exclusively living in other countries. The COVID-19 pandemic led to anti-Asian discrimination that made the lives of Asians difficult and dangerous, especially in the west.
Overview of the Pandemic’s Effects
The COVID-19 outbreak affected the world in various ways, such as declining economies and disrupting society. As of writing, the World Health Organization reported that there have been more than six million cumulative COVID-related deaths and more than 580 million cumulative cases. These statistics showcase the damage that the pandemic caused to society. Many individuals have lost family members; organizations lost leaders; would-be parents lost their newborn children. The extent of these effects has led some individuals to develop negative perceptions toward the Asian race–the supposed origin of the virus.
Anti-Asian discrimination is the most significant effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Asian race. As mentioned earlier, it is the idea that the virus started in Asia and that the Asian race is to blame for the worldwide pandemic. Many individuals possessed this idea, including former U.S. president Donald Trump. One of his actions, expressing discrimination, made the idea more prominent in the west. President Trump referred to the COVID-19 virus as the “China Virus” or “Kung Flu” and insisted that China was responsible for the virus and the outbreak (Hahm et al., 2021). The term “China Virus” was an indication that the virus originated from China, which was not a discriminatory remark on its own since other diseases possess names referring to their country of origin. However, the term “Kung Flu” was a disrespectful and explicitly discriminatory remark towards the country’s culture. These remarks strengthened the belief and prejudice against Asians, making anti-Asian discrimination prominent in the U.S.
Since Asians were unlikely to experience anti-Asian discrimination in their own continent, it was the Asians living in the west who suffered from the prejudice. According to Hahm et al. (2021), Asians and Asian-Americans experience discrimination in the U.S. while non-Asians report that they have witnessed discrimination. The discrimination varies from verbal to physical assaults, indicating that anti-Asian discrimination is prominent in the U.S. and there is a significant need to address the issue. Many Asians and Asian-Americans even find it difficult to go outside due to the fear of assault. The comments from the former U.S. president made the situation worse and endangered the lives of Asians and Asian-Americans.
While anti-Asian discrimination seems to be a societal issue, others may use the topic to aid in their political agenda. The discrimination strengthened positive opinions regarding the anti-immigrant policy and other foreign policies involving U.S. and China (Hahm et al., 2021). Individuals who promote the anti-immigrant policy justify their arguments by blaming the virus on Asians and indicating that allowing them to enter the country can increase the spread of COVID-19. This political weaponization of COVID-19 and anti-Asian discrimination showcase that the outbreak can potentially affect the relationships between Asian countries and other regions.
Violent Hate Crimes
Hate crimes tend to accompany discrimination as certain individuals resort to physical assault to express themselves. This is one of the main reasons why Asians and Asian-Americans are afraid of going outside after the influx of anti-Asian discrimination. An example of a violent hate crime against Asians is the stabbing of an Asian-American family in Texas. Jose Gomez, a 19-year-old teen, stabbed and attempted to murder a 2-year-old girl, a 6-year-old child, and a club employee since he believed that they were Chinese and would spread the COVID-19 virus (Melendez, 2020). Another example is the murder of an 84-year-old Thai immigrant, Ratanapakdee, when a man shoved him to the ground in San Francisco (Lah & Kravarik, 2021). Other hate crimes involve verbal assault and the shunning of Asians from certain establishments. These crimes continue today despite the declining effects of the pandemic.
Effects on Asian Families
The increased anti-Asian discrimination forces Asian families to adapt their living situations and how they raise their children. Psychologists have developed resources to help Asian-American families and parents teach children about racism (Okasaki, n.d.). This means that Asian families are going out of their way to teach their children about discrimination and how to cope with it, especially while living in the U.S. Discrimination places more burden on Asian-American parents and children since they have to live in a xenophobic society. Additionally, Dababnah et al. (2022) found that Asian-American families with disabled children also experienced disruption to educational and therapeutic services. Schools and therapeutic service providers may have believed the discriminatory remarks about Asians spreading the virus and decided to refrain from engaging with the race. This illustrates the extent of the anti-Asian discrimination which even affects the lives of disabled Asian children.
Social Media and Anti-Asian Discrimination
Social media plays an important role in the prominence of anti-Asian discrimination during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since individuals were in their homes due to lockdowns, social media use increased, turning the platform into the most relevant communication device. Authorities use social media to report information about the pandemic while the general public utilizes it as a way to interact with other individuals (Li et al., 2020, cited in Croucher et al., 2020). However, since social media platforms allow individuals to post anything, others can use them to spread discrimination. Some individuals use the platforms to promote terms, such as “#WuhanVirus” and “#KungFlu” while some posts use headlines that imply prejudice, such as “China kids stay home” (Croucher et al., 2020). The effectiveness of social media as a communication tool allowed these discriminatory ideas to spread and affect others.
While social media’s role in anti-Asian discrimination is concerning, it is important to note that racism is pervasive on online platforms. As various types of discrimination spread online, hate crimes also increase. According to Müller & Schwarz (2020), former president Trump’s Islam-related tweet may have led to increased hate crimes towards Muslims, indicating that the discrimination present online affects the actions of individuals in society. Racists may perceive the increased discriminatory messages online as justification for their actions, especially when they come from an authoritative figure. Alternatively, others can also use social media as a way to spread anti-racism messages. They can oppose the discriminatory messages and provide information that can help the public understand the situation.
The COVID-related anti-Asian discrimination made lives for Asians in the U.S. difficult. The discriminatory remarks from authoritative figures and rampant racist messages online allowed racism to spread and create prejudice towards Asians. This led to the violent hate crimes that have harmed and killed multiple Asians since the pandemic started. Asian families have also experienced difficulties receiving services from establishments as some fear that Asians can spread the virus due to the first infections appearing in Wuhan, China. For Asians, the COVID-19 outbreak did not only affect their economic condition but also showed them the worse side of humanity amidst a disease-infected world.
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