by Anne Mier, BGSU History major. This is one in a series of posts written by students in HIST 4800 in Spring, 2020, putting our world into historical context for the public.
COVID-19 has been a stressful and scary time for a lot of people because their entire lives have been practically taken away from them. This virus is different from others because it can infect anyone, so there is no avoiding it. In a time like this, it can be easy to put the blame on someone or a particular group. Especially when the first cases were being diagnosed and there wasn’t a lot of information, it was easy to jump to conclusions. Rather than blaming those who aren’t following the rules of social distancing, a lot of people have been blaming Chinese people or anyone that is perceived to be Asian for being the source of the virus.
A Washington Post article, written by Craig Timberg and Allyson Chiu, discusses how people have been showing their prejudice against Chinese people, calling COVID slurs such as “kungflu.” There have been other racist names for COVID such as the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” Even President Trump has referred COVID as the “Chinese Virus.” .
There has been a spike in hate crimes towards Asian Americans both in-person and online as some racist people’s results of the panic. Emily Liu wrote on CNN about how the amount of hate crimes towards Asian Americans has increased significantly since the outbreak of COVID. Two children under the age of ten were stabbed because they were believed to be spreading the virus. Timberg and Chiu also wrote about how there have been oral attacks towards Chinese Americans and the boycott of many businesses run by Chinese American families. The internet has also been a very dangerous spot for Chinese Americans. At first, people on the internet were making jokes about how this disease started from someone eating a bat. However, as time went on, the jokes have evolved into acts of harassment and the internet became toxic for Chinese Americans. Timberg and Chiu showed an example of someone on the internet saying that COVID is “bioterrorism” and how China should be nuked.
This is not the first time that a group of people was blamed for a national tragedy. During World War II, Japanese Americans faced a lot of hate and many of them were relocated from their homes into internment camps. In a short film made by the U.S. Office of War Information, Milton S. Eisenhower explained how the west coast was becoming a war zone after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Some Americans had a fear of a Japanese invasion, so they believed they couldn’t trust anyone who had any sort of Japanese ancestry. The cartoon shown describes the attitude that some Americans had towards Japanese Americans; that they had been secretly working with Japan and will betray America at any given moment.
President Roosevelt signed an Executive order in 1942 to relocate Japanese Americans primarily in the western area of the United States to concentration camps.
Most people who were in the internment camps were born in the United States and never had been to Japan, and some fought for the Allies in the First World War. Their homes and belongings were sold at a fraction of what they were worth. Like the Chinese Americans today, the Japanese Americans became the blame of a tragedy and therefore, targets of discrimination.
People have always tended to jump to conclusions and find the blame in the time of something stressful or scary. There will always be people wanting to put the blame on minorities and those who might not be able to fight back, but those who see racism should not tolerate it. There are many hotlines available for Asian Americans who feel threatened because of the racism in the result of COVID-19. The number, 1-800-771-7755, is a hotline to report hate crimes against Asian Americans. People are teaching their children to be kind to all of their classmates and if they see any bad jokes about the Coronavirus to not let them fuel the hatred towards Asian Americans. People have been saying to check in on their loved ones during this time. It may be just as important right now, to check in on any Asian American friends or family and see how they are doing physically and mentally.