The Stream

Coronavirus: Is it revealing hidden racism?

The current climate of distrust is not new to Asians who remember SARS, but this is the first disease to have the full force of social media behind it – offensive memes and all.

Fear, racism and misinformation about a new, rapidly spreading coronavirus are contributing to a global rise in anti-Asian sentiment.

Across the world, Chinese people and those of East Asian descent have reported a spike in verbal and physical attacks, including in New York, London and Toronto. Some are treating even innocuous acts such as #CoughingWhileAsian with suspicion.

Notably, most reported victims of the discrimination have no connection to COVID-19 whatsoever. The initial outbreak of the virus, as well as the vast majority of confirmed cases, remain in China, which has implemented strict quarantine measures.

Still, the current climate of distrust is not new. Many Asians still recall global panic over the SARS epidemic of 2003. And people of African descent who faced discrimination during Ebola outbreaks can also relate to the scapegoating.

But those diseases did not have the full power of social media behind them. Earlier this month, World Health Organization officials warned of a coronavirus “infodemic.” They said that for the first time in a health emergency, massive loads of information were making it “hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”

Countering COVID-19, as well as racist memes and hashtags such as #ChineseDontComeToJapan, will require solidarity and unity, they added.

In this episode we ask, is the new coronavirus making people racist? Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Eva Dou, @evadou
China Correspondent, Washington Post

Bruce Y. Lee, @bruce_y_lee
Snr. Contributor, Forbes Magazine

Janelle S. Wong, @ProfJanelleWong
Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Maryland

Read more:
Asians worldwide share examples of coronavirus-related xenophobia on social media – NBC News
Sinophobia won’t save you from the coronavirus – Al Jazeera
‘They yelled Coronavirus’ – East Asian attack victim speaks of fear – The Guardian

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