Blaming Innocent Minorities for Social Problems Has to Stop
Author: Bincheng Mao, ECC President
Early March 2020—I was patiently waiting in the check-out line in a grocery store. Abruptly, a middle-aged customer approached me, pointed his finger and yelled: “you virus, get out!” Meanwhile, he splashed his half-drunk bottle of water on my face.
I am Asian.
Ironically, I was the only one wearing a face-covering in that crowded mall. I hoped to protect not only myself but also the people around me, including him, by preventing my respiratory droplets from landing on others. Unfortunately, such racially-motivated attacks against Asians are becoming increasingly prevalent amid this coronavirus pandemic. On February 4, NYPD reported that a “Chinese woman gets attacked” in the subway by a man “who calls her diseased.” The woman was wearing a face mask. Such an outrageous injustice does not have to emerge though; if our society’s public information outlets focus on raising factual awareness about COVID-19, instead of partisan talking points, people will understand that one’s ethnicity is the last thing causing this virus.
Nevertheless, one of the most visible outlets, public figures, has been a significant barrier to the rise of rationality during this time of crisis. President Trump, along with Rep. Gosar and House Minority Leader McCarthy, repeatedly called COVID-19 “the Chinese virus.” Hearing this phrase, we inevitably pay more attention to the modifier “Chinese” instead of the known condition of “virus,” hence the inevitable racist implication against Asians.
Disappointingly, when pressed by a reporter about the potential of this phrase “putting Asian-Americans at risk,” President Trump even replied, “I think they probably would agree with it 100 percent.” Such a deviation from reality exposes not only a complete lack of awareness of the discrimination facing Asian minorities but also, more deeply, the long-overdue situation for minority inclusion and equality in this country.
Blaming minorities for social unrest has become a tragic pattern in American history. Amid the 1980s’ farm crisis, while painful lessons from WWII anti-Semitism were still fresh, pseudo-ministers blamed Jewish minorities for the economic woes of farmers to gain traction in the Midwest. Some public figures even employed phrases like “communist Jews” who “have stripped your wealth,” leading to a series of attacks on Jewish minorities, mirroring the injustice facing Asian people today.
When racially-charged terminologies are used, it becomes difficult for the public to maintain a sense of rationality necessary during a time of crisis. The results? Groundless blame that divides our society, hurting marginalized groups the most. Only when we embrace minority inclusion by using fact-driven, instead of partisan-driven terms, we will know our names won’t appear in the next news feed, reminding public figures that their prejudice has harmed more innocent citizens.
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Forgey, Quint. “Trump on ‘Chinese Virus’ Label: ‘It’s Not Racist at All.’” Politico. 18 Mar. 2020.
Li, David K. “Coronavirus Hate Attack: Woman in Face Mask Allegedly Assaulted by Man who Calls Her 'Diseased.’” NBC News, 2 Feb. 2020.
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Kamins, Toni, et al. “Midwest Farm Crisis Blamed on 'International Communist Jews'.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 14 Aug. 1985.