The Rise of Discrimination Toward Asian-Americans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Megan Kangas
March 11th, 2021

Over the past year, Asian-American discrimination has increased significantly, largely due to the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S. Hate crimes have grown significantly, and there is rarely a week that goes by where a news story does not cover some instance of an Asian-American (usually of the older generation) being physically assaulted just for their ethnicity. As the first known case of COVID-19 appeared in China, Asian-Americans have been forced to endure the brunt of backlash surrounding the coronavirus.

According to the World Health Organization and other experts, the virus likely originated from bats and passed through an intermediate animal to people in China. The original SARS virus originated in a “wet market,” a place where people can buy a variety of live animals for consumption. While original rumors indicated that the virus appeared from a person eating a bat, this has been found to be unlikely. In the specific case of COVID-19, the virus likely was passed in a wet market from a bat to another animal, such as a cat, due to their close proximity in these markets, and unknowingly passed to the human population before being discovered. The elusive nature of diseases passing from animals to humans meant that COVID-19 was able to begin traveling between multiple countries before being detected, causing the pandemic that is still raging today. As of now, nearly 3 million people globally have contracted and died from COVID-19, with 528,000 of those people being from the United States alone.

Due to American media and government officials portraying China as being at fault for the virus, all Asian-American or “Chinese Passing” people have been left in fear of being assaulted or harassed. The situation was made worse with former president, Donald Trump, and other Republican party members calling COVID-19 by the racist nickname, “China Virus.” This hateful rhetoric amped up avid Republic party supporters and Trump fans into thinking that Asian-Americans deserved to be mentally and physically attacked. Trump and Republican officials also stated that China needed to pay for all the pain and damage that they have caused, rooting these claims in the false belief that the virus was intentionally created and spread by the Chinese government.

All across America, various “Chinatowns,” as well as Chinese and other Asian restaurants, have been vandalized and suffered plummeting business due to rumors that the virus would be contracted from eating their food. Not only have Asian-Americans’ homes and businesses suffering, but more than 2,000 Asians and Asian Americans have been accosted and assaulted by racist individuals, according to Stop AAPI Hate. They have been assaulted and robbed, physically beaten by classmates, punched in the face, kicked in the back, spat on, and met with death threats. Even further, some Asian and Asian-American people have been stabbed, threatened with guns, and older Asians have been killed by being shoved onto hard ground.

Not only are these groups being physically abused, but most, if not all, “Asian-passing” people have also had significant declines in their mental health. According to a study with 400 Asian-Americans by Science Daily and Washington State University, 30% of people stated that they were being more discriminated against due to COVID-19 than before the pandemic hit. They also stated that their mental health declined by a significant amount due to the pandemic, whether that be through their anxiety, depression, and other physical and mental symptoms. An overwhelming amount of innocent people are still living their lives, over a year after the pandemic first hit, in fear and with nothing to comfort them.

Even during the recent spike of advocacy for racial justice, Asian-Americans are largely being alienated, ignored, and abused, gaining little to no recognition for the racism and discrimination directed towards them during this pandemic. Asian-Americans are forced to live in fear, worrying about their mental health and physical safety, while receiving no assistance or recognition. To successfully and wholly achieve racial justice, equality, and equity, we must also stand up for and recognize the concerning prevalence of targeting towards Asian and Asian-American people. We must speak up when we see them in danger, reach out to make our Asian neighbors feel loved, and raise more awareness to stop the growing epidemic of discrimination against Asian-Americans.