Racial Injustice: A Domino Effect
As all Americans continue to address and handle the effects of coronavirus, new waves of xenophobia continue to grip our country. As a first-generation college student, I experienced fear of discrimination both on campus this semester and abroad during spring break. After returning to the United States, I feared being persecuted while wearing a mask to run errands at the grocery store or gas station. Even now, the spectrum of racially-motivated violence weighs heavily on my mind. As the pandemic continues, racial injustice is at the forefront of American society. While the current situation is unique, it is not new — like a domino effect, past decisions and events have led our society to where it is now.
Character Illustrations by Pablo Stanley
The Asian-American Experience Amidst Covid-19
Fear and division drastically grew in a few short months. After the discovery of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China, communities across the world were quick to condemn Chinese communities. Soon after, as the situation became more severe, individuals and organizations began referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.”
Racism towards Asian-Americans skyrocketed to over 100 reported cases a day according to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.). Consequently, anti-Asian sentiment has taken a variety of forms and the implications of the animosity towards Asian-Americans, especially in regards to Chinese-Americans, have left many feeling fearful. On top of the growing list of violent attacks, Asian-American students face increased discrimination, Asian-owned businesses battle with declining sales, and Asian-Americans are being flooded with bigotry on social media. Even though Asians have been an integral part of American society for over a century, the same underlying tones of inequities prevail.
Since the Yellow Peril, Asians have consistently faced being othered. Deemed as “unclean and unfit for citizenship in America,” the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 both illustrate the foundational narrative that set the tone for life as an Asian-American today. Another example is the Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt incarcerated Japanese-Americans under suspicion of spying in internment camps. The effects of this decision drastically changed the lives of all Japanese-Americans and the consequences are still being felt today. Even in 2003, not so long ago, Asian-Americans faced immense racism in response to the SARS outbreak. It can be argued that all of these occurrences have created socially-ingrained prejudices in our society that continue to negatively burden Asian-Americans
An Uptick of Systemic Racism
With the unique implications of Covid-19, systemic racism is more apparent than ever. Not only are more black people falling ill, “the percentage of out-of-work black residents outpaces white residents at a rate of about 6 to 1.” Furthermore, many essential workers are predominantly people of color due to “occupational segregation,” causing increased susceptibility to coronavirus. While the viral attention to these racial inequities is somewhat new due to recent events and increased online attention, none of these issues are. During times of recession or crisis, minorities are more likely to suffer longer-term loss. This was seen in the Great Depression and is happening again during this pandemic, where minorities are being hit the hardest. Once again, past injustice has constructed and influenced current transgressions.
How to Move Forward Empathetically
So what can we do now as Americans? First, we must commit to supporting people of color throughout this pandemic in order to change America’s historically-rooted trends. To do so, we must all educate ourselves and understand how to address and combat racism in our own communities. It is important to remember that the work must begin in our own households, schools, workplaces, and organizations before we can enact societal change and mobilize community action. While many may fear political intricacies and ramifications, it is clear that complacency is not acceptable as a corporate voice. Progress is being made and, while the current situation is extremely difficult, positive change is happening across the country. As we have seen in the past, every inch of progress made is necessary and important.
Whether it is supporting a minority-owned business, voting in your local elections, educating our loved ones, or peacefully protesting, there is a way for everyone to lend a hand to their fellow Americans who are struggling with racial injustice. Especially considering that mass incarceration has disproportionately deprived Black Americans of the right to vote, it is important to recognize our privileges and use them to drive change. Sometimes contributing can be hard, overwhelming, or scary, but we must remember it will never be as difficult as the oppression individuals in our communities are facing. Balancing self-care and finding ways to actively contribute within your capacity is the key to long-term success for all.
Despite a complicated past, I am excited to know that America is changing for the better. We are making history, both good and bad. In acknowledging past mistakes and addressing the current turmoil, we want the dominoes to fall in favor of social equality. I am hopeful that we will all continue learning how to listen to those most in need, celebrating our differences, and advocating for change, together.