Original illustration by Emogene Cataldo

By Rosell Estrella, age 10 and IndyKids Staff

COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China, late in 2019. The subsequent worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus has with it spread xenophobia and racism toward many people of Asian descent. 

President Donald Trump and Republican allies fueled the spread of xenophobic rhetoric toward Asian Americans by referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” The Trump administration has been accused of using China as a scapegoat for its own mishandling of the epidemic. 

Many Asian communities across the United States are facing violent physical and verbal attacks as a result of this xenophobic attitude toward the virus. The New York Times reported several acts of xenophobic behavior in New York City, including an Asian woman who was attacked in the subway station and a Chinese American man in Queens who was followed to a bus stop, shouted at and hit in the head in front of his son. 

Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, has helped create a website, accessible in six Asian languages, where people can report firsthand accounts of xenophobic attacks. In the first week alone, the site recorded more than 150 cases, according to the New York Times.

Steven Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics, said in an interview with The Hill that in order to combat the spread of xenophobia, government leaders must work to discourage racist behavior by maintaining public trust. The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention released a fact sheet to inform the public and to help “stop the spread of rumors.”

“Our leaders need to be transparent,” Taylor said. “They need to offer advice about things like racism and need to lead by example — to send out a consistent message that racism is not an acceptable or sane way of dealing with this problem.”

Glossary

Xenophobia: The fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.
Rhetoric: The skillful use of words to persuade or influence others
Transparent: Having thoughts, feelings, or motives that are easily perceived.