We are not a virus

Ashley Masingale

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Graphic by Mai Nguyen

A girl with the coronavirus wears a face mask to prevent spreading the disease.

Xenophobia: fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.

Racism and xenophobia have been rooted in American history since it was founded. Today, though loosened, these roots still exist. Events like 9/11, Donald Trump’s plans to “build the wall” and the Muslim ban have fueled xenophobia in the United States. Many people have a hard time understanding that one event or person does not represent an entire race or country. Most recently, Coronavirus has sparked xenophobic tendencies toward Asians in America and around the world. 

Reports of discrimination involving popular travel services Uber and Lyft serve as evidence of racial prejudice. Passengers are declining rides from people with “Asian-sounding” names in fear that they carry Coronavirus. The University of California, Berkley even labeled xenophobia as a “common reaction” to Coronavirus through a now-deleted Instagram post. The normalization and acceptance of xenophobia should not be permitted anywhere, especially not on a campus with a 34.5% Asian population. This is disgusting, racist, unkind and ignorant.

Smaller microaggressions toward Asians are occurring locally, in Raleigh, as well. A friend I work with has experienced these microaggressions at school. Multiple times, he, a Korean, would cough and others would back away. They’d claim they didn’t want to “catch Coronavirus” from him. He isn’t even Chinese–not that if he was that this would be any more acceptable.

No matter if this prejudice is an insensitive projection of fear and isn’t meant to hurt people, it is wrong.

Even though I am a Laos-American, I can only empathize with those that have been experiencing this discrimination. I don’t necessarily look like what the media portrays as Asian. Most consider me “racially ambiguous,” and I don’t have an Asian first or last name. I haven’t been put through the racist remarks many of my Asian friends and family members have. It still infuriates me that people who are just like me, including my cousins and my mom, are being dragged through such discrimination.

No matter if this prejudice is an insensitive projection of fear and isn’t meant to hurt people, it is wrong. How would you feel if people were scared of you because of the way you look or the way your name sounds? During times like these, people should extend love and care towards those who experience xenophobia. You never know who might be affected next.