COVID-19: Don’t blame the victims

Allan Feldman, Guest Writer

Emily Zhu

“Watch out, she has coronavirus,” a teen standing next to me on the New York subway said to his friends, pointing at an Asian-American woman. Their snickers filled the car. Dumbfounded and full of empathy for this innocent woman, I could only watch in disbelief. As just a teenager, I felt powerless to do anything.

But not standing up to the utter disrespect and racism that took place that day was a mistake. To make up for what I should’ve said, I am writing this in the hopes of spreading a message to everyone: The anger directed toward Chinese citizens and Chinese-Americans is misplaced. Rather than holding innocent people accountable for the coronavirus, we need to shift the blame to the Chinese government, where it truly belongs.

Now, I understand where that teen was coming from. This particular coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has caused a global pandemic: Schools have shut down, hospitals are packed and people are forced to shelter in their homes. We are truly living in a period of crazy, unprecedented history.

However, that doesn’t justify such behavior. Racism and violence toward Asian-Americans is becoming more prevalent in our country. People are creating hateful videos and posts on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook to mock the Chinese and blame them for spreading the coronavirus.

This growing stereotype not only endangers Asians, but also slows down Chinese businesses. For example, one viral video showed a group of people in San Francisco abusing an Asian man, bringing him to tears. And last month, a 60-year old Chinese man in Sydney, Australia, died of a heart attack because bystanders didn’t perform CPR out of fear of contracting the coronavirus. Likewise, people continue to eat at Italian restaurants instead of Chinese restaurants despite the fact that Italy has reported twice as many coronavirus deaths as China. As of Friday, March 27, Italy has reported a total of 8,215 fatalities compared to 3,291 in China. It is simply reprehensible to act prejudiced and violent toward a group of people who are victims themselves.

To alleviate the racism against Asian-Americans, the media should educate the public about who is truly accountable for this pandemic: the Chinese government. They irresponsibly handled the coronavirus outbreak by failing to inform other countries of an incoming deadly disease.

Reports of Chinese coronavirus patients first emerged late last December. The coronavirus spread rapidly, and China should have warned other countries about a possible pandemic. But what did they do? The opposite. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) attempted to hide the virus outbreak for many weeks. Many Chinese journalists and scientists risked their lives trying to warn the rest of the world, fighting against the CCP who tried to censor them. For example, Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors in Wuhan to discover this deadly disease, posted warnings on Weibo, a social media platform in China. But authorities denounced his claims to be “rumors,” detained him and forced him to admit to committing “illegal acts.”

Although China later acknowledged that Li was correct and declared the virus to be a national emergency on January 20, it was far too late—millions of Chinese people had already caught the virus. Li died on February 7 at the Central Hospital of Wuhan after contracting the coronavirus himself.

In a lazy effort to make sense of this entire situation, we have ignorantly pinned the blame on Chinese citizens. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11, our country has a history with xenophobia, and we are only continuing it. We should be learning from our disgraceful moments in history, not repeating them.

Recognizing racist actions and erasing them are incredibly important right now. Even at school, I would often hear jokes ridiculing Asian students. During passing periods, people would say, “Don’t sit near them!” and “Stay six feet away.” This must end. We cannot let our high school become a home for xenophobic behavior. In a period of global turmoil, we must come together as a community and stop blaming the victims. If we do this, we can create a better future for all of us.