The Return of Yellow Peril?

The Return of Yellow Peril?

Que Lam Tran-Perez, Copy Editor

Growing cases of the coronavirus are fueling racist sentiment targeting Asians across the globe. Many are viewing the spread of the virus as an excuse to voice their xenophobic beliefs and falsely profile Asians. While some are turning to humor, others view this pandemic as an opportunity to safely express their blatantly offensive rhetoric.

The idea of a “Yellow Peril” originated in the late 19th century during the surge of Chinese immigration to the United States and referred to the irrational fear of East Asians as a source of danger. The term expressed a belief that Asians were somehow a threat to the Western World and embodies the work of anti-Asian stereotypes. That being said, are people’s responses to the coronavirus suggesting that we are reverting back to the base fear of foreigners? 

The public’s ignorance and misinformation about the novel coronavirus has led to racist and xenophobic attacks against anyone in the United States who appears to be East Asian. This racist sentiment has even manifested itself in the form of assault and verbal abuse. Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York City have reported hearing numerous public transportation passengers claiming that all Chinese people are diseased and lack basic hygiene, singling out other Asian Americans who are not even Chinese. Perhaps the most widespread form of xenophobia manifests itself in fear mongering stereotypes about Asian food, one tweet stating: “Because of some fools in China who eat weird [foods] like bats, rats, and snakes, the entire world is about to suffer a plague.”

Many are using the global hashtag “#JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” (“I am not a virus”) and other social media platforms in an attempt to defend themselves over misguided fears. The false profiling of Asians in response to the spread of the virus has led to all Asians feeling threatened and ostracized, just because of their facial features.

Not only has the coronavirus sparked racism in the United States, but it has also brought intra-Asian oppression to light. Japanese citizens have called Chinese tourists “dirty bioterrorists,” and the hashtag “#ChineseDontComeToJapan” is currently trending on Twitter. In South Korea and Malaysia, millions of people have signed petitions asking that Chinese people be banned from entering their countries. A number of Vietnamese hotels and inns have hung signs on their doors saying that Chinese guests are unwelcome, many Vietnamese even going online to demand that the border crossings with China be closed. 

The response from China’s bordering countries shows that everyone, even fellow Asians, must take accountability. While it is one thing to feel nervous about the virus, it’s another thing to accuse an entire race and group xenophobia into the fear of catching a sickness.