AAC Journal – Vol. 1, Issue 1: Anti-Asian Hate in the Wake of the Pandemic

Anti-Asian Hate in the Wake of the Pandemic

By Hanna Aboueid

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken nations to their core, having
taken at least 6.35 million lives and forced the entire world to a standstill in a desperate attempt
to contain the virus. But Covid’s toll on communities doesn’t end with the physical effects of the
virus on people’s bodies. For Asian-Americans, the fear of the coronavirus’s high transmission
and mortality rates was coupled with a fear that was similarly horrifying; their neighbors, and
American public opinion at large, were turning against them. The surge in Covid cases in the US
has been coupled with a steadily rising wave of anti-Asian (specifically, anti-Chinese) sentiment,
which has been manifesting as rising cases of anti-Asian hate crimes. Even in the aftermath of
the worst and most public surges of Covid panic, anti-Asian sentiment continues to rise in the
US, fueled by much of the same xenophobic stereotypes that have been applied to Asian
communities in the US since the first significant immigration wave in the 1800s (Kuo).

At the outset of the Covid pandemic, the dominant explanation of the origins of COVID-
19 was that it was developed because of “unsanitary” eating practices in China, where the virus
was said to have emerged from bats being sold and eaten at a wet market (Kuo). Further into the
pandemic's life cycle, the prevailing theory became that Covid-19 had escaped from a research
lab in China, with claims that it might have been intentional, some sort of form of biological
warfare (Kuo). These theories fed off of existing orientalist stereotypes about Chinese culture,
painting it and its people as unsanitary and malicious towards the west. Many Americans used
these theories as justification for Asian hate, and they used this hate as an outlet for much of their
fear of the virus and anxiety about the future. Asian Americans became scapegoats for the fear
and pain the pandemic caused, and the instances of ensuing violence have been abhorrent. Covid
became yet another extension of anti-Chinese propaganda, with the virus even being referred to
as “China’s virus,” or “the kungflu,” on multiple media sites (J. Chen).

Covid’s impact on the Asian American community has only gotten worse as anti-Asian
hate crimes remain at an all-time high in the US. The 2022 STAATUS Index shows that 1 in 5
Americans believe that Asian Americans are at least partly responsible for Covid-19 compared to
1 in 10 last year, and 1 in 3 believe that Asian Americans are more loyal to their country of
origin than to the U.S., up from 1 in 5 in 2021 (Lee). In a Vox article about the collateral health
effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in communities around the US, Jenny Chen writes about how
this rise in anti-Asian racism is keeping many Asian Americans from leaving their homes for
health check-ups (J. Chen). She gives the example of Jenny H., a long-term San Francisco
resident who used to love going out to volunteer and strike up conversations with strangers on
the bus. After being subjected to multiple racially motivated attacks in 2020, one of which
resulted in her losing consciousness and suffering from broken bones, Jenny no longer feels safe
leaving her house, even for routine doctor’s appointments. And Jenny is in no way alone in this
fear; more than one in three Asian Americans have changed their daily routine because they’re
worried about being assaulted or threatened (J.Chen). Last year, attacks on Asian Americans
surged more than 3.3 times higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to a 2022 report from the
Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (J. Chen). These numbers are sorely undercounted because of  the social barriers that many Asian cultures have to speaking out about being harmed,
especially if, like Jenny H., the survivor fears repercussions from her attackers. This hate and the
violence that comes with it continue to pose a direct threat to many Asian-Americans, negatively
impacting their day-to-day lives to the point of acting as a barrier between them and consistent
access to healthcare.

Many Asian Americans, as well as supporters and activists, have been calling out for an
end to this racialized violence, mobilizing to address this hatred. A recent example is of the
Unity Day march in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago. More than 60 Asian American and
multicultural groups convened on June 25th in front of DC’s National Mall for a Unity March
focused on bringing the Asian American community and other historically marginalized groups
together to connect, learn from one another and raise awareness about issues of racial equality,
economic justice and civic engagement (Aguilar). Among these issues is the call to incorporate
Asian-Americans into history and social studies courses, as much of this anti-Asian sentiment is
born out of severe ignorance. This ignorance is created by our school curriculums, which erase
Asian-Americans from our history books and discussions of popular culture in general, leading
to what Brookings contributor Jennifer Lee calls “the invisibility of Asians in the American
imagination” (Lee).

The Unity Day rally served as a space for shared grief and celebration for all the harm
that continues to be perpetuated against marginalized groups both pre- and post-pandemic, but it
also served as a space for education and planning next steps. Moving forward, we must continue
to join, create, and foster these spaces of communal learning and support, joining organizers in
their calls for change and demands of action. The organizations listed below are some places to
start if you’re looking for ways to support Asian-American legal, activist, educational and artistic

– Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA)
– Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
– Asian American Arts Alliance
– Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
– National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
– Asian American Advocacy Fund
– Asian American Journalists Association
– Center for the Pacific Asian Family
– Coalition of Asian American Leaders
– The Asian and Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project
– Asian American Resource Workshop
– United Chinese Americans
– Japanese-American Citizens League

About the author.  Hanna was an administrative intern at AAC-CSEBRI in the summer of 2022. You can find her bio here

Works Cited

Aguilar, Maria. ““Solidarity Is Survival”: Crowds Gather in Washington for Unity March
Planned by Asian American Leaders.” USA TODAY, 24 June 2022,
saturday/7728234001/. Accessed 9 July 2022.
Chen, Jenny. ““I Don’t Want to Go Outside”: Racism Is Keeping Many Asian Americans
from Going to the Doctor.” Vox, 30 June 2022, www.vox.com/23185392/hate-crimes-
asian-americans-doctor. Accessed 9 July 2022.
Chen, Shawna. “Asian American-Led Unity March a Reminder of Community’s History
of Activism.” Axios, 25 June 2022, www.axios.com/2022/06/25/asian-american-unity-
march-activism. Accessed 9 July 2022.
Kuo, Kaiser. ““Asiatics,” “Orientals,” and the Origins of COVID-19.” SupChina, 7 July
2022, supchina.com/2022/07/07/asiatics-orientals-and-the-origins-of-covid-19/. Accessed
9 July 2022.
Lee, Jennifer. “Confronting the Invisibility of Anti-Asian Racism.” Brookings, 18 May
2022, www.brookings.edu/blog/how-we-rise/2022/05/18/confronting-the-invisibility-of-