LOS ANGELES, CA—In mid March, a Korean woman named Helen Lee went to a Costco in Pacoima. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, she was wearing a mask and gloves. She had been battling cancer for over three years. Since she was going through chemotherapy, she also happened to be wearing a headscarf. When she went to buy food, she noticed a man near her was walking slowly. He stopped in front of her, and coughed on her head twice in a row. She was shocked at first, unsure of what had just happened. Once she realised what had just occurred, she tried to find him. “I was going to yell at him,” she said. She couldn’t, and she left the store hurt and angry. “I think everyone knows what it means if you’re wearing a headscarf,” Lee stated.
In an incident similar to this, a Taiwanese woman named Yushu Tang traveled to Phoenix on a business trip in early February. At the airport, two women in the bathroom were terrified at the sight of an Asian woman in a mask. Keep in mind, this occurred near Chinese New Year. Once she got in her Uber, she took her mask off. This was towards the beginning of the pandemic, so not wearing a mask wasn’t considered as much of an issue as it would be now. Most people at the airport weren’t wearing masks. Despite this, the Uber driver asked her to put her mask back on. She informed her that she hadn’t traveled from China. The driver replied by saying, “But I don’t know.”
As the coronavirus spreads, incidents like these have become more and more common. People have been not only harmed emotionally, but physically as well. There have been multiple stories of Asians being attacked or even killed by people believing they are the ones to blame for the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Post reported that an Asian man in Queens was pushed while walking to the bus stop with his son. The Guardian reported that a Thai man in London was assaulted and robbed by two teenagers. The Thomas Reuters Foundation News states an Asian-American middle schooler was hospitalized after being beaten up by his classmates. Perhaps the most brutal case of xenophobia due to COVID-19 is the stabbing of an Asian family in Texas. One website called List of incidents of xenophobia and racism related to the Covid-19 pandemic shows a list of xenophobic incidents around the world. This list is disturbingly long.
Racism has also appeared all over social media. On January 26, a reporter in Canada shared an image of his Asian barber on Twitter. The caption read “Hopefully all I got today was a haircut.” A rapper posted a video of himself chasing an Asian woman with hand sanitizer. A 23-year-old Filipino-Chinese American woman who posts videos on TikTok began to receive hateful comments regarding her race. The internet has also coined the offensive term “kungflu.” Despite all the dark that the internet has produced, we have also seen some light. The #IAmNotAVirus has spread across many social media platforms. Under this hashtag, people have felt free to speak out against unfair treatment. They are also celebrating who they are as people, rather than what the media and racist individuals tell them they are. Artists have also created drawings and paintings depicting xenophobia. These artists have received high praise from the media for telling their stories. Even in these trying times, truly good people come together to get through.