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Asians continue to be victims of xenophobia as the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic grows

While health officials work day and night to curb the spread of the pandemic, hate crime task forces have been busy responding to reports of physical and verbal attacks on Asians.

Asians continue to be victims of xenophobia as the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic grows
Cover Image Source: Getty Images (representative)

People of Asian descent or pretty much anyone who looks East Asian are now having to deal with a lot more than the threat of being infected by the Coronavirus. Racially-charged attacks against these individuals have been on the rise since the COVID-19 outbreak late last year, and show no signs of slowing down as the virus continues to spread across the globe. While health officials work day and night to curb the spread of the pandemic, hate crime task forces have been busy responding to reports of physical and verbal attacks on Asians.



A number of social media users have also shared stories of the racially motivated attacks they've faced out in public as misinformation and wide-spread panic are bringing out the worst in humanity. Such incidents are so widespread that people are also using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus—which translates to "I am not a virus" in French—to raise awareness about how the thinly-veiled xenophobia in society is now rearing its ugly head.







Mark Holgate, a fencing teacher from Australia, took to Facebook a few weeks ago to share a heartbreaking image of the brutally attacked face of one of his students. Today I’m angry and ashamed to be Australian. Three days ago a Chinese student of mine was cowardly assaulted for walking down the street speaking another language, he wrote. This is Constantine, and he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met, and it’s been a privilege to train and fence with him. Now that’s all over, he won’t be fencing for a long time. The coward who attacked him, spewing racist trash and telling him to speak English, smashed a huge section of his cheekbone, and he's going to need serious and expensive facial reconstruction surgery to keep from losing the eye



Constantine traveled from China to Australia to learn historical fencing and this is what Australia has given him. I'm just gutted for him. Well done Australia, way to encourage tourism. Our country has an ugly history of racism. Challenge it and call it out. And look after your Asian friends, the coronavirus is just another excuse that's stirring up racist violence, Holgate added. At least three such attacks have been reported in London, including one by British-Chinese actor and filmmaker Lucy Sheen, who tweeted that she had been sitting on a bus "when a complete stranger whispered in my ear 'why don’t you f— off back 2 China & take ur filth with you.'"



Talking to Mirror, Sheen revealed that a white male passenger had whispered the statement in her ear. "In my case, what shocked me was the stealth – the fact that this person had obviously made a decision to say what he did but do it in a covert manner. If he’d shouted that out I can deal with that, I could have handled that. It’s like any form of bias, prejudice or racism that is undercover, ingrained, institutionalized or structural, it’s very very hard to challenge or to try and change those entrenched views," she said. Another such attack made the headlines after a student from Singapore shared photos of his facial injuries on Facebook after he was attacked by four men shouting "I don't want your coronavirus in my country."


Pawat Silawattakun, a Londoner who moved to the city from Thailand 10 years ago, has a similar story to tell. In an interview with BBC London, he recounted how he was left with a broken nose after two teenagers attacked him on the street. "I heard a voice from the left-hand side, and when I looked over there was someone filming me. I didn’t hear what they were saying yet but as I started noticing what the sounds were, it was just 'coronavirus' being repeatedly shouted at me. Before I got the chance to say anything, another teen ran up from behind me and grabbed the headphones from my neck. [The teen] didn’t run away immediately. He took the headphones and then he looked back at me and started laughing. He didn’t run away," he revealed.



In the United States, an Asian-American high school student was attacked last month by bullies who accused him of having coronavirus. According to CBS News, the 16-year-old had to be taken to the emergency room to be checked out. "He went to the hospital originally and went to the emergency room. They were taking MRIs to ensure he didn't have a concussion or other harm," Robin Toma, the executive director of the L.A. County Human Relations Commission, said in a joint news conference with Los Angeles County public officials following the incident.



Condemning the bullies' actions in the same news conference, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said, "I am concerned because, as someone who is also of immigrant background, I know what it means to face discrimination and racial profiling. And when I heard of the recent incident of a young child being bullied and actually was assaulted because he was pointed out as being of Asian background — and children, unfortunately, repeat things that are said by other people, including their own parents, so we need to put a stop to that. We need to say that there needs to be a rational discussion about what’s happening."






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