In the wake of COVID-19, we are seeing a rise in hate crimes against Asian people, with several Asian American elders being assaulted and even killed over the past few months. As 2,100 incidents targeting Asian Americans were reported this summer, activists are calling for heightened awareness of this racism. However, massive underreporting and a lack of response reveals an inability for many Americans to believe the severity of anti-Asian racism.
The idea of the model minority hides the systemic racism rooted in U.S. history. War efforts to depict Asians as crafty and cunning led to the Chinese Exclusion Act and then the inhumane internment of Japanese people. Racist rhetoric by politicians flames bigotry, as we see now from former President Trump’s calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and the “Kung Flu.”
Now in Canada, Australia, and the US, Asian activists are campaigning for awareness of this issue using the “I am not a virus” slogan that African women created in response to the stigmatisation of people with Ebola.
We see here a common theme of institutions scapegoating easily targeted groups for spreading diseases, which conveniently diminishes the government’s responsibility to invest money and resources into protecting its citizens in the first place.