COVID-19: NOT an Excuse for Racism

As the Covid-19 disease spreads, the racism targeted towards Asian people continues to become more of a violent issue.

Videos of attacks and racist remarks from people around the world are surfacing on the internet: an article by Rory Sullivan features Jonathan Mok, a chinese student in London who showed two photos of his heavily bruised eye on social media after he was punched and kicked by a group of men who blamed him for the coronavirus.Jonathan Mok

According to NBC news, in New York City, an unnamed 23 year old Asian woman was punched in the face by a woman who made anti-Asian slurs. Although it hasn’t yet been confirmed, the governor of New York believes the attack to be a biased incident surrounding the virus.

Camille M, a grade 12 WCI student of Korean ethnicity, shared her recent experience of racism:

“I was coming out of a grocery store [before March Break], and on my way to my car, this older white man came up to me. He was insulting me and swearing at me, shaming me for not wearing a mask. He told me I shouldn’t be in public because I’m putting other people at risk from contracting the Covid-19. I don’t have the virus. He swore like a sailor, calling me a b****.” He then proceeded to spit at her feet before leaving her sight.

In the moment, Camille felt intimidated and scared, as would most people. She had never been in a situation of such blatant racism and as a woman of a smaller build, she was in the face of a much larger and older man, alone. It wouldn’t make logical sense to fight back as there was a risk of getting physically hurt.

Ironically, while Camille was verbally attacked because she wasn’t wearing a mask, a young woman in Toronto was assaulted by a man in the TTC, insulting her for choosing to wear a medical mask. He was later charged. Police, however, did not clarify whether or not this incident was racially motivated to protect the victim’s privacy. Either way, it seems that Asians are at fault, whether they choose to wear masks in public – or not.

Camille believes that the virus is in fact an excuse for people to attack Asian people. She says, “The general underlying dislike for Asian people bubbles up to the surface. In this case, the Covid-19 is a shield for racist people to hide behind. It’s an excuse for them to be able to defend themselves.”

After the incident, Camille reached out to the Waterloo Region Record (the daily newspaper of the Waterloo Region) via a phone call in hopes to shed more light on this issue. However, they declined to pursue the story, one of the reasons being that there was a possibility of receiving negative publicity as it could encourage and fuel racist behaviour. Although somewhat understandable, it still meant that another case of Asian racism was brushed under the rug, avoiding mainstream news.

Obviously, it’s not a problem we can solve overnight. As an Asian myself (I’m Korean Canadian), this topic is especially important and serious for me. The fact that we even have to discuss this is ridiculous; we should all be free of fear of getting attacked. The racism and ignorance surrounding the disease isn’t only happening online. It’s happening right in front of us in the KW area. We can only hope that as the disease issue dies down, so do the assaults. I encourage anyone who has experienced any kind of racism to speak up, particularly Asians. Your voice matters.