People

Anti-Asianness in the era of COVID-19

Is racism a symptom of pandemics?

by Zafirah Mohamed Zein

COVID-19 recognises neither borders nor colour. Yet Asians have been ridiculed, shunned, and attacked as the deadly virus continues to incite fear and upend lives worldwide. In the United States, incidents of anti-Asian harassment surged after President Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”. The World Health Organisation warned against using this term, to avoid stigmatising a particular race or ethnicity.

But this is not the first time a pandemic has caused racism against Asian Americans and other minorities to rear its ugly head. Think about SARS, Ebola, the bubonic plague—when deadly diseases spread, an epidemic of hate towards marginalised groups usually follows in its trail. Why?

Depicting the East as the exotic Other
Western hegemony: Asia simplified

Freshly slaughtered animals for sale at a supermarket in Guangzhou, July 2019. Image: Architect Chin/Shutterstock

Associating immigrants with disease
COVID-19 has laid bare our ideas of race
Disclaimer: Our stories have been researched and fact-checked to the best of our abilities. Should you spot mistakes, inaccuracies, or have queries about our sources, please drop us an e-mail at hello@kontinentalist.com
Zafirah Mohamed Zein / Writer

Zafirah Zein is a writer on the environment and human rights beat. An old soul with restless feet, she is constantly dreaming of time traveling in history or her next adventure out of the city.

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