As the Coronavirus has spread worldwide, hatred against Asians has also spread throughout the world. Racist crimes targeting Asians have increased in western countries, including the United States, Europe, and Canada. Once after Donald Trump publicly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” on his Twitter, there were public opinions that this remark fueled hatred towards Asians. Even more hate speeches are going viral on the Internet nowadays. This phenomenon is called “xenophobia”, which means dislike of, or prejudice against, people from other countries. There are many examples of xenophobia following a specific epidemic. For instance, when the Ebola virus was rampant, Africa was the target, and when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) spread, Asia, especially China, became the target of hatred. Like previous cases, people who had a hatred for specific races began to express their hateful feelings during the COVID-19 outbreak. Let’s take a close look at what kind of hate crimes are occurring around the world, and what organizations are deploying efforts for the eradication of hate crimes and xenophobia towards Asians.
Canada is known for advocating multiculturalism, being supportive in accepting immigrants and refugees. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, crimes related to racism frequently occurred in Canada. According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), 80% of hate crimes towards Asians in Canada were concentrated in March and April. Those are when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread worldwide. According to Metro Vancouver Transit Police, in April, when the COVID-19 outbreak was in its early days, an unidentified man suddenly approached an Asian woman and attacked her, wrestling and kicking her to the floor. In the same month, there was an incident where a woman in her 60s racially abused an Asian woman in a restaurant in downtown Toronto, beating her with an umbrella. All the victims of those incidents were Asian women wearing masks. Perceiving all these increasing incidents in regard with racial discriminations, the federal and state governments of Canada held anti-racism campaign with multicultural organizations. Hamazaki Wong Marketing Group, one of Canada’s multicultural organizations, and Megafone Media, a multicultural media company in Toronto, teamed up and held an anti-racism campaign. A hashtag #healthnothate is used on SNS in the campaign as well as “Practice social distancing, not ethnic distancing”, which is the primary message. The campaign is recruiting different celebrities for every day and letting them upload photos of wearing masks with #healthnothate hashtag. Fiona Forbes, one of the faces featured in the campaign said that “The virus doesn’t discriminate. Nor should you” on her Twitter, using the #healthnothate hashtag. Then, she said, “Not turning a blind eye. If you see something, say something”, promoting the campaign. She also said “We want to create something different. We really want to create this place, not just for acceptance, but for belonging”. Canada, through the campaign of the federal and state governments joining force with multicultural organizations, tried to eradicate racism-related crimes.
There were constant hate crimes even in the United States, which has been traditionally called a melting pot with various races and cultures. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), there were 105 reports of hate crimes against Asians from February to April, up 21 times from five reported cases during the same period last year. In March, a Korean student in Manhattan, New York, was insulted and assaulted as a “virus,” and more series of hate crimes related to racial discriminations occurred in the same month in the United States. As a result, U.S. senators urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to take concrete steps to address the surge in discrimination and hate crimes. Also, Korean organizations in the U.S. petitioned the White House asking for the formations of a task force aimed at preventing hate crimes against Asians. Besides, several organizations in the U.S. including Admerasia, an American multicultural firm known for marketing to Asian consumers, and BetterBrave, an American nonprofit group combating harassment and discrimination, have created racial discrimination maps in their own website (racismiscontagious.com). On the website, more than 1,000 cases of hate crimes were reported from February to April. During the period, 100 cases a day were reported on average and two-thirds of the victims were women. Among them, more than half of the victims were non-Chinese, and around 17 percent were Koreans.
Given the former examples that epidemic leads to racial discriminations against people from the site of outbreak during the Ebola virus, SARS, and COVID-19, we can find out that the epidemic can lead to the spread of hatred. Although hate crimes against Asians sharply increased in many countries, various organizations are sparing no efforts combating them. As the number of cases outside Korea increases, there are serious concerns that the antipathy against foreigners and oversea arrivals would become stronger. Some hotels, restaurants, and cafés in Korea have been denying access to foreign customers even they do not have any symptoms. The important things for us are washing hands, wearing masks, and keeping social distancing, rather than growing hatred towards other people. Also, self-awakening about xenophobia is strongly needed.