Shocking Levels of Racism During Coronavirus Outbreak
Categories: Latest News
Friday April 17 2020
Yesterday, the BBC reported the arrest of two men in Sheffield for posting racist stickers bearing the logo of the far-right Hundred-Handers group and claiming to link migration with the coronavirus pandemic. Increasing levels of racism surrounding the coronavirus crisis have been reported ever since its emergence and serve only to encourage division and undermine the important contributions of minority communities, both as essential workers on the frontlines, and in volunteering valuable time and resources to help their local communities.
Since the beginning of the crisis, abuse directed at those of East Asian heritage has been particularly acute. In February, the Guardian reported on the case of the UK born and raised Jason Ngan who overheard “We’ll be in trouble if these guys sneeze on us” while he was in a lift with his brother and other non-East Asian people at Manchester Piccadilly station. Ngan was quoted as saying “people seem to have put a whole race behind it and it’s exposing all these underlying prejudices towards Chinese people, or at least anyone who looks Chinese. It’s shocking in this day and age. It was so blatant,”.
Meanwhile, others have encountered physical abuse. Pawat Silawattakun, a 24-year-old tax consultant of Thai descent was violently assaulted and robbed by two teenagers shouting “coronavirus” while on his local high street in full view of dozens of passers-by in West London. He was left stunned and bleeding with a broken nose as one assailant stole his headphones and the other filmed the attack on his phone.
Similarly, a woman of non-East Asian descent was punched in the head for defending her Chinese friend from racist abuse. Trainee lawyer Meera Solanki was celebrating her 29th birthday at a bar, when her Chinese friend Mandy Huang, 28, was branded a “dirty c***k” by a group of men and told to “take your f***ing coronavirus and take it back home!” Upon intervening, Solanki was punched in the head by a member of the group resulting in her suffering a concussion and spending six hours at hospital.
In March, these incidents led to reports of a number of Chinese students at UK universities “fleeing back to China” amid an increase in racist attacks triggered by so-called maskaphobia. There are even reports that some are even attempting to book private jets to return home.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has resulted in many East Asian people in the UK being ‘otherised’, reflecting a similar situation encountered by Britain’s migrant communities post the Brexit referendum in 2016. Indeed, evidence shows a spike in hate crimes following the EU referendum in 2016. Certainly, the intervening three years of Brexit negotiations have been surrounded by racist and anti-migrant undertones, particularly vilifying migrants and minority groups.
Similarly, British Muslims continue being ‘otherised’ during the pandemic, with concerns being raised that right-wing voices in the UK are fuelling Islamophobia after Daily Mail commentator, Andrew Pearce suggested that there would be a “spike” in coronavirus cases during Ramadan. Pearce tweeted, “If families gather for holy month of Ramadan will there be a huge spike in Covid cases. Doctors are very worried”.
Meanwhile, international conspiracies connecting Muslims to the spread of the coronavirus continue to abound. The UK is not immune to these conspiracies, with counter-terrorism police recently investigating far-right groups accused of “trying to use the coronavirus crisis to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment”.
These groups have been fuelled by prominent far-right personalities, including Katie Hopkins who suggested that the UK police should follow the example of India in deploying violence against Muslims during lockdown. Likewise, Tommy Robinson shared a video allegedly showing British Muslims attending prayers at a “secret mosque”. According to the Guardian, the West Midlands police subsequently dismissed these claims.
As Lynn Dobbs of the Guardian stated yesterday; “Coronavirus might not discriminate, but our society does. Whether it’s the fact that the workers propping up our lockdown lives tend to be poorer, or the higher numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic people dying from coronavirus, this crisis is shedding light on the fault lines in our society.” We cannot allow racial abuse and prejudice to exacerbate these existing structural inequalities that make minority communities vulnerable to the impacts of the current pandemic. This is a time for cohesion and solidarity. Those who promote only division contribute to lasting societal impacts that are perhaps equally as dangerous as the virus itself.