Over the past few weeks, people have garnered major frenzy over the recent outbreak of the infamous coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus disease has been around for over 50 years, mostly found in animals like camels, cattle, cats and bats; however, the recent emergence of the new strand found in humans from China's Wuhan City, Hubei Province has generated widespread media attention and paranoia because of a rapidly increasing death toll. Wuhan City houses a virology lab, so after putting two and two together, people inevitably resorted to the internet to express anti-Asian sentiment, which has been spreading just as rampantly as the virus itself.
People have justified the origin of the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse for racist comments against any and all Asians, Chinese origins or not. All over social media, I notice Asian people becoming the butt-end of a poor joke. Social media is flooded with "joking" comments warning people to stay away from Asians and to avoid anything related to Asia at all costs. Not all Asians are Chinese, so to assume a random Asian person carries the coronavirus is wrong in itself.
The general anti-Asian sentiment instigated by the coronavirus makes no sense at all. Regardless of these technicalities, labeling these remarks as "jokes" masks the underlying racism they imply, and racializing a deadly illness like the coronavirus distracts from the grim reality of the virus at hand.
According to Bryan Ke of Next Shark, a Canadian reporter was fired after tweeting a selfie with his barber, who happened to be Asian, with the caption reading, "Hopefully ALL I got today was a haircut."
On the surface, comments like these do not seem to hold malicious intent toward the people they are aimed at, but these mocking statements encourage numerous others to follow along with this same trope. People attach the harmless nature of a joke to excuse their racist remarks, making the comments seem half-hearted and unintentional. These racist statements surrounding the coronavirus instill people with a false idea of how we should treat the Asian community as well as how we expect the Asian community to accept these comments with ease. Racist Asian jokes have always assumed a more non-serious tone, and this attitude has a broader negative impact on individuals, especially since the recent coronavirus epidemic.
Alexandra Ma and Kelly McLaughlin with Business Insider claim most victims of the xenophobia prompted by the coronavirus outbreak include Asians not even associated with Mainland China. In their article, Ma and McLaughlin include personal accounts of coronavirus racism submitted by the site's Asian subscribers. The brief narratives range from an eight-year-old being shooed away by a Costco worker just because he may have been from China, a college student's friends cautiously looking at him any time he sneezes or coughs to various Asians noticing people physically moving away from them in public. The site lists numerous other instances where more Asian people have experienced these types of racist over-generalizations. Considering all the untold stories from others with similar experiences, the racism instigated from the coronavirus is disheartening and needs to end.
According to Alexandra Kelley of The Hill, there have been instances where Uber and Lyft drivers exemplify these racist sentiments surrounding the coronavirus. One driver admitted to refusing service to anyone with a last name that resembled Chinese origin. This blatant discrimination is completely unacceptable, especially in an era that esteems progression and equality.
While many turn to sarcastic "wit" to single out and overgeneralize the Asian community, others display blatantly discriminatory actions that specifically target Asian individuals, regardless of their affiliations with Wuhan City. No matter what manner the act is presented in, if you truly believe avoiding Asians at all costs is the proper course of action to prevent coronavirus contraction, you are guilty of racializing the disease. Viruses spread regardless of race, so drop the racist running gags. Stop overgeneralizing all Asian people. Racism is not the cure for the coronavirus.