Racism spreads online, offline amid COVID-19 outbreak, fueled by Trump

As the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads around the globe, so does xenophobia and racism against ethnic Asians in Western countries, and Trump’s accusation against China, where the outbreak was first reported, fueled the hatred.

A growing number of incidents against Chinese and ethnic Asians as the whole have been reported around the world since the outbreak started, and the number of racist remarks and crimes against Asian communities spiked after Trump publicly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” on his Twitter on March 16.

Racism goes viral online and offline

Hate speech toward China and Chinese people has gone viral on the internet. According to a report from L1ght, a company that specializes in measuring online toxicity, Twitter witnessed a 900 percent growth in hate speech toward China and Chinese people starting in late March, right after Trump’s racist remarks.

This phenomenon, however, is not just limited to online forums. Asians are also faced with racism and related crimes in real life. More than 30 percent of Americans have witnessed COVID-19 bias targeting Asians, a new Ipsos survey conducted for the Center for Public Integrity revealed, and the percentage increased to 60 percent among Asian American respondents.

Student activists protest against racism. /Reuters
Student activists protest against racism. /Reuters
The FBI had earlier warned of a surge in hate crimes due to the spread of COVID-19, as “a portion of the U.S. public may associate COVID-19 with China and Asian-American populations.”

Serious incidents of violence have already occurred. In March, an Asian American family of three, including two children, was stabbed outside a store in Midland, Texas. By mid-April, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had investigated 15 coronavirus-related hate crimes, all directed at Asian victims, according to NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force officials.

Stop AAPI Hate, an advocacy group that tracks racist attack cases, also claimed that it had collected more than 1,500 cases of harassment against Asian Americans in a one-month period since mid-March.

Xenophobia around the globe

According to data released by London’s Metropolitan Police, the number of racially aggravated assaults against Asians rose sharply to 166 in February and March, compared with that of 66 during the same period last year.

Chinese businesses in the United Kingdom have also recorded significantly reduced customers in the Chinese New Year celebration period due to fears of coronavirus spreading through food or unhygienic working practices.

Marchers in San Francisco, California, turn out on Saturday to oppose discrimination that links the novel coronavirus pneumonia with people of Chinese heritage. /China Daily
Marchers in San Francisco, California, turn out on Saturday to oppose discrimination that links the novel coronavirus pneumonia with people of Chinese heritage. /China Daily
So far, there have been at least 267 anti-Asian hate crimes recorded across the UK, Sky News reported in early May.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a U.S.-based human rights group, warned of the extensive spread of hate related to COVID-19 worldwide in a statement, saying: “Government leaders and senior officials in some instances have directly or indirectly encouraged hate crimes, racism, or xenophobia by using anti-Chinese rhetoric,” and some political groups have used the virus to advance “anti-immigrant, white supremacist, ultra-nationalist, anti-semitic, and xenophobic conspiracy theories.”

The UN voiced concern over “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia” unleashed by the pandemic and urged governments to act to strengthen the immunity of their societies against the virus of hate. It urged governments to unite by supporting each other.

While the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China, the virus is a common enemy of mankind and no one can escape by sheer luck in this globalized world. Instead of playing a blame game and targeting people based on their appearance, it is the time to collaborate and find solutions with joint efforts.

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