Racial Prejudices Increase Drastically Due to COVID-19

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Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Emma Leibowitz, Staff Writer

As the number of cases of COVID-19 rises in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports an increase in hate crimes targeted at Asian Americans as a result of the pandemic’s origin in Wuhan, China. These crimes spurred a variety of responses from organizations and civilians.

Launched on May 19 and founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department, Stop AAPI Hate is dedicated to recording hate crimes and harassment targeted at Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

     In a Stop AAPI Hate press statement released on May 13, the center said that it has received over 1,700 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination targeted at Asian Americans. AAPI is also known as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. According to the press statement, nine out of ten respondents to Stop AAPI Hate believed they were targeted due to their race. Stop AAPI Hate shared a few responses from victims in their press release.  One victim reported that “We were holding a public webinar in Chinese on COVID-19 and families. In the last minutes, we were Zoom-bombed by a group, and participants were exposed to racist and vulgar images, curses, harassment, and name-calling.”

A new poll conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Ipsos, a market research company, reported that approximately 32 percent of respondents witnessed Asian people being blamed for the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, 24 percent of respondents say they are worried about coming into contact with a person of Asian descent, and 46 percent say they would be concerned if an Asian person is not using sufficient protective gear. In an article detailing the results of the poll, Ipsos stated that of the 44 percent of respondents who credit a specific group or organization for causing the pandemic, “45% mentioned China or Chinese people generally, 13% say it was caused by a lab in China, and 9% blame the Chinese government.”

President Trump called COVID-19 the “China virus” for weeks at the start of the pandemic. The president backtracked on his nickname for the illness, stating in a March 23 tweet, “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is not their fault in any way, shape, or form.”

However, despite the president’s retraction, hate crime rates continue to soar. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “Extremists continue to spread antisemitic and xenophobic conspiracies about COVID-19, blaming Jews and China for creating, spreading and profiting off the virus.” 

In a recent campaign ad released by the Trump administration on May 11, the president accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of having close ties with China. The ad states, “Biden stands up for China…while China tries to cripple America.” This response to the pandemic is reflected in anti-Asian hate crimes as well as defamatory language meant to attack Asian Americans and blame them for coronavirus.

As recently as May 3 in Pasadena, California, a man threw a drink at a group of Asian Americans while yelling racial slurs, according to Pasadena Now. The man was later arrested. The East Bay Times reports that on April 22, five Asian-owned businesses near San Jose were vandalized. And a Facebook post on April 20 claims that a second-grade student in California stated, “I don’t like China or Chinese people because they started this quarantine” during a Zoom class.

At Miramonte, the Equiteam is looking to understand the effects of racial bias related to coronavirus among the student population. Equiteam is a student-run organization that “promotes racial equity and seeks to disrupt and challenge racism in the school community,” Equiteam staff leader Steve Poling said. Along with Poling, Christina Orangio, Megan Flores, and Ellen Conners advise Equiteam. According to Poling, Orangio is “an exceptional leader and accomplished great things with the students on the team.”

Equiteam recently released a survey titled “COVID-19 & Race: Questions for Students,” which asks students if they have encountered racism as a result of the pandemic. “On the survey, students reported seeing and hearing racist comments, jokes, and insults towards Asians that were directly related to the COVID crisis,” Poling said. The survey found that although only 8.6 percent of respondents experienced racism as a result of the pandemic, 58.1 percent said that they have noticed their own racial or class privilege during this time. In regards to a plan for the future, Equiteam hopes to raise awareness of white privilege and assist marginalized groups by creating acceptance in the school community. “In the fall, we plan to hold a school-wide discussion on race and COVID-19. This will be one in a series of discussions we sponsor on equity and anti-racism,” Poling said.

Students are observing racial bias, whether it be through the news or locally. “I have not experienced any racism directly, but I do have some people close to me that have experienced first-hand racism in public against Asian Americans,” junior Sydney Gong said. The FBI warns that discrimination of Asian Americans will likely continue during the pandemic.