Oh, hello racism and xenophobia. These aren’t a new phenomenon. It’s been around for decades, even centuries; but due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, COVID-19, racism, xenophobia and stigma have reared their ugly heads, awaking the ugly traits from within people. Even more so after the very first Brexit campaign. I get it. People are cautious and scared of this new strain. However, they need to stop using it as an excuse to be racist and xenophobic. Racially motivated hate crimes are on the rise.
Those who follow my Twitter would know I have been highly vocal during this outbreak. Being a British born Chinese myself, I have been subjected to racism throughout my whole life and sadly, it’s not disappearing anytime soon. I’ve had the typical chink, ni hao, konnichiwa verbal slurs, the slanted eyes gesture, been told to fuck off back to China (thanks Brexit), I’ve got x virus, eat cats and dogs etc. Guys, you name it.
Now let’s go back to the SARS pandemic in 2003. Sitting in the school canteen with friends laughing away, I overheard some idiots from the year above stating I had SARS and should be quarantined. Pointing and laughing in my direction. I was 12 at the time. Tears flowing down my face and the next minute, I was sitting with the deputy headteacher going through photos of every student in the year above identifying the whom. I can still remember their faces to this very day. The perpetrators did apologise and their reasoning behind their motive was “it was only a joke”. Like, seriously? The school had taken corrective measures.
Clearly nothing has changed since then.
Ignorance is Not Bliss
What’s even more fatal and spreads quicker than a virus? Ignorance. Alongside with the help of the media and social media. Simply because it had originated from China, doesn’t imply that every Chinese, wait let me rephrase that, every one of ASIAN heritage is Chinese, automatically carries the virus, eats everything that breathes etc. Xenophobia, more specifically sinophobia, is real, even amongst other East Asian countries.
Fear clouds people’s judgment thus not able to think straight. Nah, it’s pure ignorance.
Just one look at a revolting bat video they’ve seen online, everyone is now an expert, reaching a ludicrous conclusion generalising the whole Asian population. Blaming us, telling us it’s our fault, and we deserve what’s coming. People are quick to judge, easily misinformed and stubborn to learn the truth. In their case, ignorance is bliss. The reality is, only a very small minority still consume wildlife; and it’s not only in China. The rest of us are as disgusted as everyone else. I can guarantee we haven’t touched nor been anywhere near that shit, especially those who were born and raised outside of China, like myself. Misinformation has now developed to be a damaging, common misconception.
I’ve read many senseless, fearmongering nonsense relating to ways you can possibly be infected such as, drinking Corona beer, eating Chinese food, receiving post from China. Being cautious isn’t an excuse for the sheer lack of common sense and stupidity. The whole situation has left me speechless. Fear-fueled ignorance has taken a toll on local Chinese and East Asian businesses not only in the UK but everywhere else. In many people’s eyes, there is a “forever a foreigner” stigma towards us.
Outside the virus, there are many circumstances where individuals within the majority group believe this and that, he or she aren’t classed as racists. What are the chances they have experienced racism themselves? Absolutely zero. Are they able to correctly define what constitutes as racism? What it feels like to be a victim? No. What are the chances they have been on the starting end? Higher. Yet they have the cheek to lecture us, view racially derogative language as an unfortunate and robust nature and dismiss our experience. All in all, what does this prove? Denial, delusional and normalising casual racism.
Not Just in the UK
Having lived in both the West and the East, I can say the following: Yes, Britain is racist, and yes, China is also racist. The common denominator between the two is not 100% fully acknowledging racial discrimination and xenophobia exist, and perhaps in denial. Racism isn’t an issue that just occurs in these two countries alone, it exists all around the world. More prominent in some countries than in others; some countries overlook it.
You can’t generalise what a typical racist looks like. There’s one in every skin colour, in every language. Even in the UK, racism exists between different ethnic minority groups.
Who’s to blame? No one is born a racist, a xenophobe. Lack of knowledge and education in discrimination, social influence, history, propaganda, the media, basically anything will direct them down the wrong path. It’s a learned behaviour.
The Issue with Playing the Race Card
Nowadays, playing the race card can be loosely thrown into any situation. Exploiting it for the wrong reasons too. More notably in politics and journalism. Whatever the reason, people play it to their advantage for personal gain to which may bring profound consequences. It’s become so mainstream that people can’t define what really is and isn’t racist. Any small comment can be manipulated; twisted to the point it relates to race when there’s no correlation in the first place.
There are two extreme ends of the spectrum. On one end, you have people exploiting it in everyday life situations when it’s not associated with race one tiny bit, e.g. the infamous line, “It’s because I’m *insert race/skin colour*”; whilst on the other, there’s a bigot believing one’s own racist actions aren’t deemed as racist and blaming others for playing the race card. There are in-between situations. Has there been a correct way of using the race card? The negative connotations it carries overwhelms such idea.
Is playing the race card now becoming similar to the boy who cried wolf situation?
Challenging Racism and Xenophobia
You can throw in, oh kids will be kids, they can’t fully differentiate between right and wrong, left and right. Educate them. Educate them that everyone is equal, to not judge someone for being different, skin colour is meaningless. It should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Teach them to openly stand up and speak against it.
We shouldn’t feel frightened about pointing out one’s behaviour and actions. A lack of understanding and cluelessness is usually disguised as ignorance. We should challenge their actions, their statement and not the individual themselves. Having a discussion as to why it is distasteful may open their mind, think back and help them recognise it’s wrong. Let them know the impact it has on others and speak about our own personal encounters.
Once we call out objective racism from unaccommodating individuals, they turn defensive; justifying their actions, dismissing such behaviour, commonly saying they were joking and it’s a bit of banter, we’re pulling the race card, need to chill, lighten up and stop overreacting. You get the gist. Exhausting, to say the least. But how do you get through to them? This is where the issue lies.
By not challenging this, we are allowing racial ideas to flourish. The negative consequences that come with will continue to rise; the social structure will continue to deteriorate. This isn’t an issue that can be eradicated overnight. It is a constant, never-ending battle.
Cheers to fellow BBCs, ABCs, CBCs, FBCs, IBCs, overseas Chinese etc for voicing and calling out racism during this troubled time. Cheers to everyone else for standing up for what’s right, helping fight against racism. I hope everyone continues to not stay muted and to continuously voice louder without fear, especially when the virus blows over whenever that may be.