Since the first case of COVID-19 in China this past November, I have seen a flood of reactions pour out over social media, as well as every radio and TV station imaginable. There are those who have used humor to offset the perceived seriousness of the situation, and the thousands of parents who have flocked in mass numbers to every Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Market Basket, CVS, and Target in search of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and food. With news reports, stories, speculations and theories dropping hundreds of times an hour, 24 hours a day, I find it impossible to know where to begin reading and when to stop, much less what information is the most trustworthy in a situation that is only just beginning to present any concrete statistics and data.
Now more than ever, in a time where opinions circulate quicker than wildfire, it is easy for words to be misused, offhand comments to be made and “jokes” to spread, that are at best displays of thoughtlessness and ignorance, and at worst express clear xenophobic and racist attitudes. With the world torn apart over this global pandemic, it is time to align our priorities and come together over shared goals, the most primary of which I hope centers around supporting each other as we navigate this unknown in tandem, and having no tolerance for racism or xenophobia as a new, accepted norm.
I have read about and even watched some of the numerable attacks on Asian American citizens that are becoming commonplace both within this nation and outside of it, from a video of a group of men beating up an elderly gentleman who was simply walking down the street to an article describing two men jeering xenophobic comments such as “You dropped something: the CoronaVirus!” and “We don’t want your virus here.” at a woman trying to take out her trash. Social media networks, articles from countless news platforms, and live news updates on TV feature new instances of racist, xenophobic attacks such as these every day. I cannot possibly even think about qualifying these outbursts as just “harassment” or products of ignorance. Just as much as the goodness of the world is presenting itself in the way people are trying to connect with and support one another, there is a swift uptick of hate being poured on members of this country’s Asian American community, and whether fueled by anger, fear, confusion, or ignorance, I cannot truly say for sure.
What I do know, without doubt, or hesitation, is that it is unacceptable to not demand better from the people of this country, and more so, not to expect our communities to come together and acknowledge the gravity of this reality. Regardless of whether or not a person has experienced or witnessed such outbursts, or have family or friends who have, it has to become a responsibility for everyone to condemn and stand up to the easy response to life’s current chaos: finding a common “enemy” to unite against and spew fear, anger, and ignorance on. We are stronger as a community, a state, and a nation when we come together in the name of upholding peace and justice, and we owe it to ourselves and those who are facing the weight of these attacks to do so.
Editor’s Note: Hannah O’Connor writes most often as one of The Citizen’s Student Voices columnists.