The Real Virus: Racism

Shuttershock - Justin Lane
Shuttershock - Justin Lane

Without a doubt, the last few weeks have been hard on everyone. With the absence of school, sports, restaurants, and practically all forms of social interaction, many people have found themselves bored and afraid of what this virus has in store.  Spreading germs is bad enough but at a time when we need to work together to overcome this global threat, some are spreading a poison equally vile- prejudice.

Asian Americans, it seems, have become a target of the ill-informed and biased. Due to the coronavirus originating in China, many people have blamed the Chinese for the rapid spread of the virus around the globe. Those people have made their feelings known by physically and verbally assaulting Asian Americans, regardless of their connection to the virus.

One of these violent attacks happened right here in Philadelphia and made headlines all across the nation. On March 4th, two Asians were brutally attacked in what appeared to be a hate crime on a Septa subway stop. This was only 9 days before Governor Tom Wolf closed all schools in the Pennsylvania area. 

Sure, tensions were high around this time period, and many people were afraid and looking for a scapegoat. However, there is no excuse to violently and unnecessarily attack somebody simply because you are afraid, or because you think something is “their fault”. The truth is, viruses don't have a nationality. Viruses will attack the human body regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or social status. 

While not every case of blatant racism goes viral on social media, some of them are still reported. There has been such a rapid increase of assaults on Asian Americans that on March 19th, an organization called Stop AAPI Hate was founded. The organization was created to “collect and track incidents of anti-Asian American and Pacific islander hate violence, adult harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying.” 

Between its founding date and April 7th, Stop AAPI Hate has received 1,400 reports of either physical or verbal assaults on Asian Americans. Over 60% of these incidents were considered forms of verbal harassment, and over 90% of the time the reason for was race. This data shows an unfortunate outcome of the coronavirus’s sudden stronghold on our way of life: that Asian Americans have been blamed and discriminated against unjustly. 

As stressed earlier, not all of these assaults have been direct physical confrontations.  Verbal attacks and shunning can hurt just as much as a punch to the gut. 

A heartbreaking example of verbal assault was experienced by a Chinese teacher. Stop AAPI Hate states in their weekly report that she was teaching in her 4th-grade classroom when a Spanish-speaking student said: “Kill the Chinese” in Spanish. When the teacher heard what the student said, she was shocked.

This is not just an example of racism towards Asian Americans, but also a demonstration of how the youth can be easily swayed by ideas. This is a hard time for many kids, and many are looking for answers to what is happening. For them, it is easy to find an “enemy” in Asians, and use them as a means to vent their frustrations on the world. 

This is why we need to be careful. America is home to all-- you can’t look at a person and tell whether they are “American.” This is a time when we need each other more than ever-- we need to help each other, heal each other, hear each other. Because of the ever-looming virus that has been infecting people for hundreds of years, the ultimate illness that is rivaled by none other is racism.

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