• Rolland Van Helden

The Brewing Racism In The Time Of COVID-19

Updated: 7 days ago

SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 is a pathogen originating in Wuhan, China that is currently rampaging throughout the globe. As of the time of writing, according to worldometres, there are currently 488,426 cases and 22,067 deaths.

But amidst all the suffering and brewing chaos lies another danger: xenophobia and racism. This sensitive subject needs to be tackled, as we should raise awareness of this issue and deal with the verbal assault and toxic behavior that it is associated with.

So why this? As a Chinese citizen and a victim of the recent rise in racist and xenophobic behavior, I felt the need to bring up this prejudice to Asian people. To be degraded to my race and assumed that I had the virus was highly insulting on a personal level. I thought to myself that, “Oh I should just brush it off, I was probably the one in a million to experience such verbal assault” but then I realized.

In Japan, the hashtag #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan has been trending on Twitter. In Singapore, tens of thousands of residents have signed a petition calling for the government to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country.

“I was standing in a supermarket aisle and moving my shopping trolley to make room for a middle-aged woman to pass when I overheard it: "Asians … stay home …stop spreading the virus."

I wasn’t alone.

As concerns of COVID-19 grow rapidly, as cases of COVID-19 grow rapidly, so do the xenophobia and racism that accompany it.

So why is this happening?

Well, fear. Fear towards the virus has spiked and attention has been directed to the origin of the virus: Wuhan, China. As a result, people assume or blindly accept the false myth that all Asians (mainly Chinese people) have COVID-19, and some just take the opportunity to release pent up anger. There’s a lot of reasons as to why these xenophobic behaviors have spiked but they all have one thing in common, they are unjust, inappropriate, and inexcusable.

Are Asian people the main targets of this?

Yes, I have seen reports and claims that sometimes the victims aren’t even Chinese but still became the target of verbal and sometimes physical assault.

What can we do?

There have been online movements that have started as a result of the prejudice towards Asian people.

For example, the NCAPA (NC Academy of Physician Assistants) led a group of 260 civil rights organizations in sending a call to Congress to denounce anti-Asian racism around coronavirus. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to their fellow members of Congress urging them to share verifiable information about the illness given the misconceptions about national origin and the spread of the virus.

And an online petition on has been started to ask for an apology from news sources such as The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun.

What can we learn from this?

As a student, I have learned how toxic and degrading it is to experience first hand or any kind of racism.

As a human, I have learned that we should be able to respect one another without any prejudice, regardless of the situation.

Ultimately I have learned to be a better human being as a result of this and have grown to be more mature and vigilant.

I believe that as COVID-19 rampages around the globe we should take this time to unite instead of dividing ourselves.


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