Chinese/Asian People Become the Target of Discrimination in Coronavirus Outbreak

By Jiali Sun

Due to the rising outbreak of Coronavirus around the world, there has been increasing cases of prejudice, xenophobia, discrimination, violence, and racism against Chinese people, and even Asian people, particularly in Europe, the United State and the Asia-Pacific region. What is worse, such discrimination not only happens on the Internet, some cases even involve violence in public as well as well-known news media.

On Feb.3, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”, which has aroused the uproar among Chinese people and overseas Chinese since it deploys derogatory reference to China. The phrase “sick man of Asia” has been historically used to perpetuate the stereotype that Chinese people were disease-ridden and unclean. The expression is also resented by the Chinese, whose country has suffered from past foreign invasion. Such reference is thought to be instigating panic, skewing public opinion, and deepening discrimination. The likely consequence is rising racism against Chinese and other Asian ethnicities. Therefore, many Chinese people were petitioning to bring down the article or rectify the title in recent days.

As one of the most well-known international newspaper, WSJ’s improper choice of such an controversial headline at such a sensitive time of health crisis in China’s history demonstrates the author’s/editor’s lack of empathy and compassion, and will consequently harm the fame of WSJ as well as offend a sizable community in the US. All in all, there is an urgent need for WSJ to retract the headline, make claims and apologize.

Face masks are commonly worn by Asians to protect against germs or prevent any pathogen from spreading. However because of irrational fears over coronavirus, overseas Chinese have been dealing with horror stories about mask-wearing people being verbally and even physically attacked by strangers. In one such assault, videotaped by a passenger at a subway station in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a mask-wearing woman was pummeled and kicked by a man. The witness told the media that the attacker called the woman a “diseased bitch.”

I think such racial discrimination or anti-Chinese sentiment is a kind of systematic injustice since those discriminate and biased people irrationally abused innocent Chinese and Asian people who just want to protect themselves from being infected by the virus. As it is said by de Beauvoir in her Second Sex, “it is that no group sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other against itself”. However, the Coronavirus outbreak is the issue of the whole world combatting with the virus rather than confronting certain racial groups. Those discriminating cases will not only arouse a higher level of social unrest and fear but also increase the work burden of public police and workers. There is still an urgent need for more strict government regulations as well as scrutiny on the swirling misinformation and viral rumors and racist cases.

3 thoughts on “Chinese/Asian People Become the Target of Discrimination in Coronavirus Outbreak

  1. An ignorance of Coronavirus is displayed in the discrimination behaviors towards Chinese/Asian people. Those who hold on to the resentment or even carry out violence are ignoring following facts: 1) Not all Chinese/Asian carry virus. 2) Chinses/Asian are victims of the virus. The villain is the Coronavirus, not the infected people. 3) Face-masking is a method of protection, not a signal of the infected.
    These ignorances are not an exhibition of lacking common sense on medicine, but a plain display of racial inequality. The discriminations are unfair indeed. But the reason why prejudice towards Chinese/Asian people gain its popularity is an issue that provoke my thoughts on the topic of inequality. Let’s do a simple thought experiment. Suppose the Coronavirus first breakout among the mainstream race (of American society) in another parallel universe. Is it likely that what is happening now to the Chinese/Asian people in the real world also happen to the mainstream race in the fictional world?

  2. I agree that this is a type of social injustice and that a phrase like “sick man of Asia” is very powerful when used in the main stream media. The more people see a comment like this, they more they are likely to think that it is okay use use phrases with such derogatory meanings. It contributes to a societal view that Asian people are more sickly or that Asia is diseased. Secondly, I also agree that mask wearing people should not be shunned or judged simply because they are using protection against pathogens. Any immunocompromised person would be smart to wear protection even on a daily basis. Determining a lower status for a specific Asian person because of disease rates in an Asian country is incorrect and is a jump to conclusions.

  3. Hi Jiali,
    I agree that there are many stereotypes from the world towards Chinese people, especially during this hard time. Some of my classmates said that they are afraid of wearing face masks outside because of discrimination. Face masks are very effective safeguard that proventing people from spreading out Corona-virus, whereas many people thought that only individual who was infected needs to wear masks, although not everyone who is infected will have the symptoms.

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