With the ongoing spread of the coronavirus
around the world, xenophobia is also on the rise from loaded hashtags on social media
to physical violence on the streets of some major cities.
We’ve seen numerous reports of people of Asian descent primarily East Asians from China,
Japan and South Korea being accused of carrying the COVID-19 virus and facing discrimination
and even assault in both verbal and physical forms.
But now, xenophobia is also rising against non-Asian ethnicities too, as the disease
spreads within continental Europe. To look into this worrying phenomenon, we
connect with Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, Doctor of Medicine and medical journalist based in New York.
We also have Dr. Diana Yeh, Senior Lecturer of Sociology at City University of London.
But before we delve into the issue of xenophobia,… I’d like to ask you, first, Dr. Lee a brief
question about the World Health Organisation’s decision to label the COVID-19 a global pandemic.
First, do you think it was a timely decision given criticism it came far too late? And
do you think the outbreak is still manageable as the WHO claims?
Pandemic isn’t a word that’s used lightly as it can incite panic. Of course, we’ve already
seen this happening,… which helped give rise to a wave of xenophobia. Which is our
main topic of discussion today Dr. Diana Yeh, you’ve been studying racism and ethnicity
for years in the UK,… where you’ve highlighted ‘invisible’ discrimination against East Asians.
It’s become quite conspicuous now. What worries you most about this surge of xenophobia? Dr. Lee, when it comes to anti-Asian sentiment,
we saw this with SARS in the early 2000s. What makes this coronavirus outbreak different
bringing out more racist behavior compared to previous outbreaks like SARS or MERS? Dr. Yeh, people of East Asian descent are
underrepresented in many aspects of mainstream culture. Generally speaking, most aren’t
confrontational and won’t speak out as often as other ethnic groups. Do you think this
crisis could become an eye-opener for the Asian community? Dr. Lee, a French newspaper has used a bunch
of inflammatory headlines including the word “Yellow ” and described the virus as “yellow
peril”. Do you think the media is fueling such racism and what do you think the media
should do to be a part of the solution, not the problem? It’s also up to us as members of society to
educate ourselves and stand up for those who are being irrationally targeted.
There are hashtags such as #iwilleatwithyou trending on social
media to support Chinese/Asian restaurants and other
things as well. You are actually an organiser of this movement. How has the reaction been
to the hashtag. Is there anything else we can do to combat racism? That’s where we have to wrap up this discussion.
If you want to join the #iwilleatithyou movement, you can find it on Twitter.
As another hashline goes, Asians are not a virus. But what does spread sickness is the
irrational placement of stigma, fear and hatred that causes division in times where solidarity
is needed more than ever. Thank you for your time today, Dr. Bruce Y. Lee and Dr. Diana Yeh, joining us from New York