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COVID-19’s lasting effect includes xenophobia

COVID-19’s lasting effect includes xenophobia

COVID-19’s lasting effect includes xenophobia
March 31
10:00 2022

Despite its ongoing presence, COVID-19 has left its lingering impact. After roughly two years, many are still reeling from the irreparable scarring left on the Asian community. At its onset, the pandemic ignited a wildfire of misinformation and anti-Asian remarks, and those of Asian descent practically became targets overnight.

On March 16, 2020, a tweet from former President Donald Trump containing the term “Chinese Virus” circled the media. As a result, an increase in anti-Asian content and other xenophobic rhetoric followed shortly after. In March 2021, eight individuals were brutally murdered — six being women of Asian descentin three spas in Atlanta, Georgia, making headlines. Earlier this month, news of a 67-year-old Asian woman being repetitively stomped on and verbally abused became public knowledge.

Historically, individuals of Asian descent have found themselves subjected to various instances of bigotry. Such instances include the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned Chinese immigration for two decades, and the Japanese internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While these are just a few examples of the deep-rooted discrimination faced by the Asian community, the pandemic serves as a new addition to the relentless hatred towards minority groups that knows no bounds.

Although the flare in anti-Asian sentiments may only be partially attributed to Trump’s insensitive comments, the xenophobic rhetoric he linked with Asian-Americans exponentially impacted and influenced the way people view the Asian community. This harmful perception created a stigma, leaving those of Asian descent feeling alienated and vulnerable to racist attacks. 

In an age where social media entirely transformed the way people consume most of their information, the rise of COVID-19 contributes to much of what is problematic with news sources today. The pandemic significantly enhanced the prevalence of “fake news” through the utilization of social media. However, much of the information spread does not always hold true and only amplifies the possible spread of misinformation, hate speech and violence rapidly. For many, Trump serves as the poster boy for weaponizing social media in a way that normalized anti-Asian xenophobic rhetoric and willed these remarks to persist. 

Recently in the United States, the culture towards the pandemic has become more relaxed. The biggest cities have loosened mask mandates and other social barriers put in place. This trend is accompanied by a significant drop in daily new cases in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. However, the United States seems to be one of the few isolated countries experiencing this drop as there is a trending surge of new cases globally. Nonetheless, American citizens are benefitting from the improvements. Hopefully, this marks the beginning steps towards recovery. 

Conversely, members of the Asian community are not reaping the benefits equally. As highlighted before, the number of hate crimes against Asian-Americans is shocking despite the decrease in COVID-19 severity in the United States. The unparalleled relationship between the two showcases that the xenophobia brought to light during the pandemic will not be eradicated alongside COVID-19. Rather, it seems that this virus will live on much longer. 

Unfortunately, the outlook for unlinking the pandemic from the Asian community is unrealistic. With the recent lockdown of Shanghai due to COVID case surges, these headlines will only further the ingrained xenophobia in the United States. This effect is augmented by the contrasting situations in Shanghai to that of the United States. While Shanghai and other Asian countries are experiencing swells in COVID cases, the United States has relaxed preventative measures altogether. 

Although it may seem bleak, the surges in Shanghai represent a new chance for the Asian community in the United States. Now under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the public of the United States can be exposed to different rhetoric regarding COVID-19 and the relation of the pandemic to members of the Asian community. Therefore, it is of the utmost urgency that the United States sets the precedence in undoing the damage to the Asian community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Featured illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Migchalee Gonzalez

Migchalee Gonzalez

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