The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Staff Ed: coronavirus does not excuse xenophobia

2 min read

The Blue & Gray Press


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the novel coronavirus as a global health emergency. This week UMW has sent students an update on the virus which has not touched Virginia.

There have been over 20,000 confirmed cases in China, and, as of publication, the WHO has reported 146 confirmed cases in 23 other countries. There are serious concerns of a global pandemic, but the coronavirus has sadly sparked an increase in racist incidents, some centuries-old prejudices, against Asians and especially Chinese people.

Tik Tok user and 21-year-old Vietnamese American, Trang Dong, was shocked to find a plethora of microaggressions in the comments of a funny video posted. In the clip, Dong slurps leftover broth from pho. The joke is that she’s using chopsticks to hold the spoon.

While many excused their comments as jokes, they are microaggressions. And they indeed are racist. Dong says the memes, words and videos mocking the virus damage her sense of well being, and has even had to face xenophobia in the classrooms of the University of California, Berkeley. “[People saying] ‘stay away from your Asian friends’ or ‘stay away from international students’ is really upsetting to see,” Dong said.

Just last week, UC Berkeley’s health center posted a handout listing common reactions to the outbreak on Instagram. People were stunned, outraged and disappointed as their eyes fell upon one symptom. It read, “Xenophobia: fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about those feelings.”

As an Asian American, Dong is quoted saying that she feels like a “perpetual foreigner in the country I was born in, in the country I was raised in.”

We will not stand for the outbreak to serve as a form of validation or excuse for racist actions, words and xenophobia. It is time to practice sympathy and compassion.