As pandemic spreads in the US, so do racism and xenophobia

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By Xin Qiang Source:Global Times

Photo: IC

While the coronavirus epidemic in China has been tamed, it has not stopped Western media, especially those in the US, from trying to exploit the crisis. They have now found another weapon to demonize China, calling it “racist” and “xenophobic.”

This hype has been constant over the past week. The New York Times claimed “as coronavirus fades in China, nationalism and xenophobia flare.”

In China, many foreigners enjoy preferential policies, and overall, foreigners have a better life than the average Chinese. If those Western media intend to label China as “racist” or “xenophobic,” they should dig deeper into specific incidents. The recent allegations of some Africans being discriminated in Guangzhou’s virus-control efforts were actually enhanced measures as the city is facing the rising risk of imported cases and the measures were applied to all residents regardless of race and nationality.

It is ludicrous to see Western media reports pinning the racism label on China while there is a growing number of news reports about Chinese and Asians facing racist abuse in the US, proving that xenophobia has flared there.

In the US, Asian Americans find themselves in the predicament of having to choose between wearing a face mask to protect themselves from the coronavirus, or not wear a mask, to protect themselves from discrimination.

In late March, an American spat on an Asian man in a Brooklyn subway station. Reports also show children of Chinese descent in the US are refusing to wear masks at school because they fear being verbal abused by their classmates.

On Monday night local time, Trump tweeted that he intended to sign “an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States,” a move some US netizens said was xenophobic.

Despite it may be a method evaluated by experts to control the epidemic in the US. Some commented under Trump’s announcement by saying “when immigrant NYers make up more than half of the frontline workers in NYC, the epicenter of America’s #COVID19 pandemic, the President’s response is more xenophobia & fear mongering.”

Racism issue has deep root in the US. The founding of the US south was facilitated by slavery. Even after the Civil War, which ended slavery, the country maintained institutionalized racial discrimination which only began to be eroded in the 1970s. The continued existence of the white supremacist hate group Ku Klux Klan, is proof. In 1882, the US enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting the immigration of Chinese laborers. Discrimination in the US against the Latino population, which rages on today, has its own disgraceful backstory.

Racism and xenophobia are cancer in US society, which has not yet been cured. Among US conservative extremists, many are white supremacists.

When the coronavirus outbreak began, the ingrained mentality in US society again came to the fore, with many blaming China for the pandemic which led to acts of violence toward Asian Americans. The Independent reported on March 24 that “hundreds of Asian Americans have been violently attacked in the last month because of “China virus” racism voiced by [US President] Donald Trump.”

Fox News has hyped its large audience with constant and groundless accusations against China. It wouldn’t exist if its disparaging remarks and extreme ideology weren’t supported by a large swath of Americans.

A vicious circle has been created in the US – media hype accelerates the spread of racism and xenophobia, which perpetuates unprincipled views of people and creates a market that is supplied with unrelenting news stories and commentaries that support racist mindset.

It is uncertain whether the suspension of immigration to the US is an emergency measure or a xenophobic move that will continue after the pandemic ends.

Regardless of whether Trump is to be reelected this year, the next US president is highly likely to make adjustments on Trump’s policies, not for noble reasons but because US politicians know immigrants have made the US what it is today. Racist and xenophobia policies only hurt the US’ unity and national interests.

The author is deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University. [email protected]

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