As coronavirus continues to spread, there is a more important virus among us – racism.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Asian community have become a target of racism. Even in our small town, many Asian students have experienced racism from strangers and even their friends.
This time last year, as fear over the pandemic grew, that fear turned to hate, specifically towards the Asian community. As the coronavirus originated in China, coupled with it being labelled as the “China Virus” by former President Trump, xenophobia and racial prejudice have been on the rise.
Last year, it was reported that a lecturer of Asian descent was kicked, punched and assaulted whilst racial slurs were hurled at them on the streets of St Andrews.
Although there have not been any more public reports of violent hate crimes since then, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening anymore. Many hate crimes, remain unreported and get swept away under the rug.
For Asians, racism isn’t new. Ask your Asian peers if they have experienced hate crime in St Andrews and they most likely say yes and or know someone else who has.
“Me and my friends were out and we got chanted at “Covid-19 oh Covid-19” to the same melody of Come on Eileen”
“It was the start of Covid hitting the UK and I was biking around Lamond Drive wearing a mask [this was the time when people didn’t believe in wearing masks] and a man was yelling and shouting at me”
“I was out with my friends during spring break and I got shouted at by a group of men saying ‘Go back to China’”
Such experiences like these have made the Asian community fearful and uncomfortable, so much so, that many have expressed being nervous to go outside and are cautious to wear a mask in fear of drawing attention to themselves to avoid being singled out and harassed.
Many others reported racially biased stereotypes and microaggression comments said towards them.
“On my second day here I was called a Ch*nk”
“Oh you’re Asian, so you eat dogs?”
Slurs and phrases like this generalise Asians and make a mockery of their appearance. These ‘jokes’ are nothing more than blatant ignorance and cannot continue to be tolerated.
Comments like “dog/ bat eater” dehumanise Asians and the normalisation of using the word “Chinese virus” to refer to coronavirus reinforces assumptions that all types of Asians are associated with the virus and continue to put blame on the Asian community.
These comments come so naturally without a second thought and are labelled as ‘jokes’ made from friends and strangers, but it raises the question as to why derogatory phrases like these are so ingrained and embedded into people’s vocabulary? Why are they dismissed as a ‘harmless joke’?
Comments of this nature are one of the main reasons why anti-Asian sentiments are so prevalent, internalised and normalised within the Asian community, allowing others and themselves to mock their own and other’s cultures and remaining passive to achieve white validation. These remarks are so normalised for and within the Asian community that they feel there is often no use in speaking out.
So why is racism towards Asians so normalised?
It stems from the Model Minority Myth. The myth credits Asians for being high achieving and successful. Assuming that Asians are homogenous and socioeconomically ‘well off’ than other minorities. Which may seem like a compliment, but this myth is problematic and harmful. It erases the hardships Asians of different backgrounds face and enforces racism and microaggressions onto both Asian and other minority groups. It no longer views Asians as a vulnerable minority group and disregards racism shown towards them.
Hidden voices of St Andrews @stahiddenvoices provides an anonymous platform to share stories of discrimination where some have come out to share their experiences. A platform like this is great to increase, raise awareness and start a conversation.
The University and students can work together to protect the BAME community and raise awareness of this issue. It is important that when we see acts of hate, to not be a bystander and stand up for others and talk about this issue.
Asian hate crimes in the UK alone have increased during the pandemic. It started with microaggressions escalating to physical attacks. The pandemic has brought a lot of hardships but should not be used as an excuse for racism. In a time where people need to help one another, the pandemic has allowed for a societal divide towards Asians.
The Asian community in St Andrews understands the struggles of other minorities and in no way are trying to refute their struggles and experiences, comparing struggles with other minorities does not bring any change, instead it is important to stand in solidarity with one another.
Racism is an ignorance problem.