A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


The Coronavirus Isn’t An “Asian” Virus

The possibility of a pandemic isn’t an excuse to peddle your racism

I cannot believe that I actually need to say this; a disease, no matter how much hysteria it causes, is not a good reason for you to be racist.

Racist attacks and assaults against East Asians have been on the rise as COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus) spreads globally. There have been plenty of documented alleged attacks on Asians around the world in recent weeks, and it’s worrying. Two teenagers were arrested in the U.K. in connection to an allegedly racist attack on an Asian man named Jonathan Mok. Mok posted details about the incident and photos of his injuries, one of which was an intense black eye, on Facebook, causing (and increasing) concern in Asians.

And there was the viral video of an elderly Asian man being attacked as he collected cans in San Francisco. A man stole his recyclables and hit him over the head as others egged the culprit on by mocking the Asian man. Not only that, but the fact that someone filmed the incident and did nothing says something in itself. That itself is harrowing.

And now, we’re left to wonder—am I next? Will I be hit over the head out of nowhere? Will I be punched in the face randomly? Will someone decide for themselves that I don’t deserve to live?

It isn’t just outright physical assault, either. Racist digs against East Asians can be subtle, and sometimes just downright obnoxious (like that teenager from Garden Grove, California who went viral because she filmed herself screaming “coronavirus” at Asians in a high school assembly). As news coverage of COVID-19 cases increases, so does the amount of finger-pointing.

Don Luskin, a commentator on Fox News, outright said, “What are we gonna do about China? What are we gonna do about a totalitarian dictatorship where it’s okay to sell live virus-infected bats in open-air marketplaces, and then have business travel and tourist travel between that country and the civilized world?”

I would like to note that while I do agree that some Chinese people have questionable habits (yes, eating bats is weird to me, too), it’s still difficult for me to generalize a nation of more than 1.3 billion people and assume they’re all outside the “civilized world.” That’s stereotyping, and stereotyping is, of course, racist.

It gets more subtle than that. The New York Post was criticized over its usage of a photo for an article about the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York. The photo in question was of an Asian man with one of the face masks we’ve come to see so often walking down the road in Queens.

A lot of criticism came from the fact that it was a photo of an Asian man in Queens, despite the fact that the first case was in Manhattan, which in turn made it very misleading.

The New York Post aren’t the only ones. BBC has used a photo of an Asian in an article about the coronavirus, and so have the New York Times (the photo has been replaced on its site) and The Hill (who took down the original tweet and replaced the photo).

New York State reported its first case of coronavirus, in a woman in her late 30s who had traveled to Iran. The announcement brings the total number of cases in the United States to 76.

Posted by The New York Times on Sunday, March 1, 2020

Even if the intentions behind this photo were benign and not racially motivated, it still clearly gives a message to ignorant people, regardless of intention: You should be scared of Asians. You should be angry at Asians. They’re the ones who caused this, after all.

And I seriously did not think I’d have to say this, but eating Chinese food won’t give you the virus.

The virus isn’t going to hop onto food and get you sick because that’s just not how it works (seriously, just Google it—it’s been debunked so many times). You contract COVID-19 through respiratory droplets that come from coughs and sneezes.

If anything, the rumors surrounding Chinese food just causes the stigma against Asians to grow, and then we look like even more of a threat because of it.

Just this past week, I managed to get sick right after coming back from a trip to San Francisco, where a state of emergency over COVID-19 was declared. Immediately, I was worried. I might have had the coronavirus, yes, but that wasn’t my main concern.

The first thing that came to mind was that I couldn’t wear a face mask. As a Taiwanese American, wearing it would be like painting a target on my forehead. I almost refused to walk around outside in a face mask that would have kept everyone around me safe because I was scared I’d become an easy target.

There was no way East Asians have ever had it as bad as other minorities, I once thought. But now, as I watch countless Asians, some of whom have absolutely no connection to China, just trying to live their lives be assaulted senselessly and blamed endlessly for the virus, I wonder—were people just waiting for this chance? Did they hide in the bushes until a virus made it seem okay to pounce?

And now I know the answer. This isn’t about health. It never was. Health and fear are being touted as excuses to justify racism, subtle or not.

You may ask, “So whose fault is it?”

And I’d answer, “That’s a stupid question.” Now is not the time to finger-point and find scapegoats for your fear; now is the time that we put into practice actually helpful prevention methods before everything hits the fan (in some parts, it kind of already has).

In a previous article, Michael Albertson, M.D., a gastroenterologist at UCLA, said, “Prevention is basic care, with hand washing, avoiding large crowds and getting early testing for unexplained cough or fever.” If we wash the fingers we’re pointing a little more often and use a little more common sense, then we can get out of this mess, no violence necessary.

So no, this isn’t the time to start imitating “Lord of the Flies.” This isn’t the time to scream racist comments because racism is, and never will be, okay. A disease doesn’t discriminate—so I don’t see why you should either.

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About the Contributor
Natalie Lu, Editor in Chief
Natalie Lu is the former editor-in-chief of SAC.Media. You'll generally find her listening to K-pop, watching Brooklyn 99, gushing over her two cats or finding out what weird thing is trending on social media now.

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