Ever since COVID-19 first reached the U.S., the Trump administration has sought to distract from its own pitfalls by blaming one group above all others: Asians.
Throughout the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and the “kung flu,” scapegoating China specifically and Asians more broadly as a cause of the pandemic. Yet the immense loss within the U.S. falls solely on Trump: on his watch, COVID-19 has killed more than 215,000 Americans. By spreading rampant misinformation, Trump has placed guilt onto Asians, who have faced greater spouts of racism as a result of his damaging rhetoric. Asian students at Emory are just some of many who have been afflicted, yet their plights have largely been ignored. We must address the xenophobia they face by recognizing its existence, educating others about its dangers and including Asian Americans in our anti-racism efforts.
Emory students have dealt with exceedingly difficult circumstances since March: online classes, financial struggles and COVID-19. For Emory’s Asian American community, both on campus and off, there’s an additional burden: fear of anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes.
Jane Wang (22C), co-president of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Activists (APIDAA) at Emory, reports experiencing xenophobia while on an Emory shuttle bus. While eating kimchi fried rice, the driver “kept asking if I’m from China and if I’ve eaten snakes, saying that coronavirus started because China’s unsanitary. I did my best to try to give a better perspective, but after a certain point, you’re like there’s not much I can do to change it on a shuttle ride,” she said. Despite growing anti-racist efforts, the burden still falls on Asian Americans to educate and correct misinformation.
Undoubtedly influenced by Trump’s damaging rhetoric, the U.S. has experienced a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans, most of which are attributable to the pandemic. From March to June alone, one study found almost 2,000 such incidents, with spikes in hate crimes correlating to Trump’s first references of “Chinese virus.” Rhetoric matters, especially from the highest political office in the U.S., and Trump is using his power to force Asian Americans to pay the price for his failures.
Anti-Asian sentiments abound social media, too. Since June, Instagram has reported 72,000 new posts bearing the hashtag #WuhanVirus and 10,000 more with the hashtag #KungFlu. Moreover, a recent Twitter analysis revealed the word “virus” and various racial slurs to appear particularly often alongside the word “Chinese” in hashtags. More recently, after Trump announced his positive diagnosis on Twitter, the Anti-Defamation League found an 85% increase in hateful language toward Asians, largely blaming China for Trump’s infection. Racism has become pervasive on social media feeds, encircling all aspects of life for Asian Americans.
Such blatant racism also extends beyond social media. In late March, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council documented a hate crime in which an older white man pushed a mixed-race, 7-year-old girl off of her bike while screaming at her father, “take your hybrid kids home because they’re making everyone sick.” It was not an isolated incident. As the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations recently noted, Los Angeles civic groups and police departments fielded 100 new reports of pandemic-related hate incidents from February through April.
Over the summer, our social media feeds underwent an anti-racist revolution. Viral infographics became the norm as we reckoned with glaring systemic racism and police brutality. Asian Americans, however, have historically been excluded from the anti-racist conversation. We must seek to correct misinformation and expand our understanding of anti-racism to include their struggles, through a historical perspective and in the age of COVID-19 and Trumpism.
In that vein, Wang encourages students to continue to have uncomfortable conversations. “A lot of people at Emory are doing great at having anti-racist conversations among the people who already agree with them,” she said. “But maybe talk to people who don’t agree with that dialogue about anti-racism.”
Go beyond liking an infographic on Instagram or talking to a friend who holds political beliefs identical to yours — talk to any family members and friends who are more skeptical of COVID-19 and Trump’s inducement of anti-Asian racism. Don’t be satisfied with performative activism or minimal effort. As APIDAA co-president Stephanie Zhang (22C) stated, “Just because you vote, it doesn’t make you an amazing game changer. Voting is the bare minimum … Get self-educated.” Anti-racism is an active process that requires sustained effort, and we must strive to do more than the bare minimum to support our Asian peers.
Emory students should combat anti-Asian sentiment by educating both themselves and those around them. As Wang said, students should “come to APIDAA events, come get educated about the way Asian students face racism, why that happens and where these narratives come from.” She added, “Talk to your friends who are Asian American. Check in on them.”
Counteracting racism and anti-Asian sentiment shouldn’t fall on Asians alone. You have the power to speak up. Do it.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Brammhi Balarajan, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Kemal Budak, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Demetrios Mammas, Meredith McKelvey, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.