While coronavirus makes its way across the pond to the United States, it appears another disease has already been thriving within the country: xenophobia.
Cases of the deadly coronavirus have officially been reported in the United States. Two individuals have already succumbed to the disease. While the pandemic is scary and distressing for many, especially those who have recently traveled or plan to travel soon, there is one thing that the pandemic has brought with it: racial injustice. As coronavirus continues to spread, it is racial hate that is spreading even faster. Several Asian Americans have experienced intense spikes in racist attacks, CNN reports. In addition to propagating racist assaults, Americans of other races are reportedly vastly misinformed about the disease and its origins.
In New York City, for instance, an Asian woman was violently attacked while traveling on the subway. The incident took place earlier this month on February 2. She was at a New York subway station when a stranger approached her out of the blue and assaulted her. The woman was wearing a face mask, a practice common in East Asian communities long before the coronavirus outbreak. The stranger called her a "diseased b*tch" before proceeding to aggressively hit her. A witness at the subway station claimed the attack was a "terrifying" situation. She stated, "I believe that this incident has immense potential in opening up the discussion of Asian American-directed racial tension that has been caused by the [novel coronavirus]. The sad trend that I've observed about racially directed hate is that almost all of (it) stems from fearful ignorance. Racial tensions are indeed escalating, and we now have significant reason to take agency in acting."
But it's not just the big cities that are experiencing hikes in racial attacks. Kao Lor and his uncle Lee Lor were traveling through the city of Plymouth, Indiana when they decided to stop and check in to a Super 8 Motel. They were refused a room until they could confirm they were not from China. When Lor asked the motel employee why he and his uncle had to clarify their heritage at the establishment, the employee responded, "Because of the coronavirus going around. And anyone from China, I am told, has to be picked up and quarantined for two weeks." This is simply not true. As per the federal government's order, only US citizens who have recently returned from China's Hubei province must be quarantined for up to two weeks once they return to the United States.
Furthermore, Chinese restaurants have also taken a major hit in the past few weeks. David Zheng, an employee at New Shanghai Deluxe restaurant in New York's Chinatown, explained in an interview with CNN, "On a normal day, we'd have around 100 tables a day. [But now] for a full day of business, we'd get only 20 to 30 tables." The restaurant, which has been in business for 19 years now, has seen a 70 to 80 percent loss of business according to owner Rose Wu. "We had table reservations from customers a couple of months in advance [but they canceled]," she said. "A customer called and said, 'Mainland China has this disease. We are not going to come out anymore.' No one in my restaurant has this disease. No one in Chinatown has this disease." Wu is right - no one in New York is yet to be diagnosed with coronavirus.
Could it possibly be that Americans' fears are misguided? Definitely so. In the United States, more people die from the flu every year than have even contracted coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control noted, "At this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads." So if you witness a racial attack, you can help by stepping in to mediate the argument or recording the incident if you are unable to get involved personally. Assess the risks involved but don't stay silent.