Fight the pervasive racism COVID-19 has incited

Ian Joshi

On March 14, a Burmese man walked into a Sam’s Club in Midland, Texas, with his two children, ages 2 and 6. They were quietly minding their own business when 19-year-old José Gomez stabbed each of them with a knife. While Gomez was soon arrested, his brutal attack left gashes on the children’s faces and left the family seeking serious medical treatment. Gomez claimed that he attacked the family because he thought they were Chinese and had suspicions they were spreading the novel coronavirus. 

Unfortunately, the Midland stabbing is just one of the many hate crimes plaguing the United States during this pandemic.

Beyond the rising death tolls and a national quarantine, COVID-19 has made its mark on Asian Americans by inspiring fear and racism toward this community. Even President Donald Trump, who called COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” has participated in the rise of xenophobia toward Asian Americans. 

Some might consider it a joke, but the implications of this pandemic being called the “Chinese virus” are far worse than they may seem. Since the virus originated in Wuhan, China, some say that it’s perfectly justifiable to call it the “Chinese virus.” However, a lot of ill-informed individuals might not know how the virus spreads, and this racially charged rhetoric might lead them to genuinely believe that Chinese people caused and/or have the disease. We’ve already seen the violence that can emerge from such a belief. 

“Using the Chinese rhetoric to direct (blame) toward China has indirectly affected how Chinese Americans are viewed,” said Shawn Hsueh, a junior officer for the Taiwanese American Students Association. “After the situation dies down, we might be able to see some of the inherent biases that our country has toward people of other countries. There’s definitely going to be people who take their frustration out on Chinese Americans.”

As Hsueh points out, it’s important to realize how harmful irresponsible nomenclature can be to so many people. For example, the Spanish flu did not actually start in Spain — it originated in Kansas. Yet we don’t call it the Kansas flu. It’s the same reason the Zika virus isn’t called the Ugandan virus and polio isn’t called the Vermont disease. These names would allow for discrimination, racism and more unwarranted hate at a time when unity needs to prevail.

In order to cohesively fight COVID-19 and the pervasive racism it has incited, we need to educate ourselves and others. You can start by doing research online. Credible organizations such as the World Health Organization, The New York Times and MITMedical provide exceptional information on COVID-19 and its effects. Additionally, a multitude of academic journals have already been published on the subject and will provide readers with a deeper understanding of the impacts of COVID-19.

You can also try to get involved directly in your community. Look to the examples of  restaurants offering food to healthcare workers, strangers shopping for the elderly and hotels giving up rooms to house medical staff. This is merely the tip of the iceberg for the kind acts that have already been accomplished when people come together (figuratively, that is). 

“Chinese virus” might just be a simple phrase not intending to do harm, but the negative effects of it have been clear. It is not productive to single out one group of people when the whole world is battling the same virus. What we need most right now is unity to solve a global pandemic, not unnecessary division. 

Joshi is an electrical and computer engineering freshman from Plano.