As Coronavirus Panic Increases, So Does Racism Toward Asian People

Incidents of racism toward people of Asian descent are on the rise due to the coronavirus scare.

With panic over the coronavirus growing by the day, incidents of racism are unfortunately on the rise as well. The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China, which has led to an increase in acts of hatred and violence toward Asian people, in spite of repeated assertions from officials saying that anyone of any ethnicity can contract coronavirus.

On Feb. 4, a video recorded in the New York City subway showed a harrowing attack on an Asian woman wearing a face mask. On Feb. 25, a heartbreaking video recorded in the San Francisco area showed two men attempting to hit an elderly Asian man as they stole his cart full of cans. On Mar. 2, another video recorded in the New York City subway showed a woman screaming at an Asian man, telling him to "go home." And on Feb. 24, a Chinese student named Jonathan Mok was assaulted in a racist coronavirus-fueled attack in London.

"Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred—and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they've found yet another excuse," Mok wrote on Facebook a week after the attack. "From refusing service to a Chinese-looking person to racially motivated hate crimes, every single one of these acts are based on racism."


Chinese restaurants have also been affected, with some reporting losing half or more of their business in the last month. "None of our food comes from China, but that doesn't matter to diners," Thomas Lo, a co-owner of Spy C Cuisine in Queens, New York, told the New York Post. "I don't know what motivated the scare. A lot of it is misinformation."

"People are trying to avoid places where Asian people are going to be, which is completely unfounded," Sarah Baker, president of the Seattle chapter of Japanese American Citizens League, told The Stranger. "And there have been incidents within the community of people being avoided—people getting on the bus and others moving away from them just because they're Asian."

Politics Means Politics writer and Chinese student Mike Dinata experienced something similar in the U.K.

David Barron, a certified labor employment lawyer at Cozen O'Connor, told Best Life that people should take extra care to avoid workplace discrimination as coronavirus fears increase.

"A lot of employers are putting together emergency response plans right now," he said. "It's important not to create hysteria, as that tends to result in people blaming certain groups for their issues, which creates a hostile work environment. And you can't assume that someone should stay home because they're South Korean."

Barron also said that while it's legal for companies to place travel bans on certain countries, they should be mindful of how that might impact employees whose families are from those countries and may experience discrimination as a result. "Most of this is common sense," he said. "But people tend to lose their common sense when they're under pressure."

Janice Gassam of Forbes pointed out that "the racism that many people of Asian descent are currently experiencing is strangely reminiscent of the U.S. in the 1800s after The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed. The act was passed based on the false belief that the decreased wages and economic hardship that the West Coast was facing at the time were due to the Chinese workers." She also noted that health pandemics have a tendency to lead to bigotry and xenophobia, like the Ebola virus concerns in 2014 that resulted in racism against those of African descent.

"Fear and ignorance are a dangerous combination and have catalyzed into the spreading of fiction and falsehoods," Gassam wrote. "Ensuring that employees are equipped with the facts and are prepared to intervene if they witness discrimination taking place will help you cultivate a culture of inclusion inside and outside of the workplace."

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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