As concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak spread across the world, there are reports of discrimination, harassment and violence against people of Asian heritage. As the world is forced to deal with the racial ramifications of the coronavirus, BYU–Hawaii, Hawaii and the world as a whole, are dealing with these issues.
In an instagram post on March 19, Korean-American actor, Daniel Dae Kim who is best known for his roles on Lost and Hawaii-Five-0 announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. In his post he assured his followers he would be fine, and emphasized the importance of limiting contact between others in order to limit the spread of the virus.
At the end of his post Kim touched on the issue of discrimination, when he called for an end to the “prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people,” who often are blamed for the virus which is believed to have started in Wuhan, China.
Kim said, “Yes I’m Asian, and yes, I have coronavirus. But I did not get it from China. I got it in America - in New York City.” He says the negative attitudes displayed towards Asian people are, “cowardly, heartbreaking, and it’s inexcusable.”
A BYU–Hawaii student from China, who wished to be anonymous out of fear of increased harassment on social media, said she was harassed online by someone blaming her, and China as a whole, for the coronavirus outbreak.
“He was talking about how back in 2013, SARS had a big impact on the world and that’s something that started in China. [Now] corona virus started in China again. He said, ‘You Chinese people didn’t learn anything from it.’”
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Ivan Tang, a junior from Hong Kong majoring in computer science, feels as though he is watched more closely by others. “I noticed when Asian people cough, people will look [at them]. They will be aware of it. It's kind of crazy.”
Racial stereotypes have always existed, said Tang, “But right now there is one more stereotype: The Wuhan, China Virus.” He said he expects things to get worse, and for more people to be concerned as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States rises.
Another Chinese student who wished to remain anonymous said, “I hope they can stop what they’re doing, and try to be [more educated] and also have patience - and have love for us, just like the Savior did.”
In BYU–Hawaii President John Tanner’s Pacific Ponderings from March 6, he emphasized the need for unity and love at the university. “This is a place where we take seriously God’s commandment to love our neighbor; a place where we learn to love others and where all people truly feel loved as children of God.”
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, Tanner offered counsel to students, and the BYUH ohana as a whole. In a letter to students he reassured those who are concerned about having food, a place to live, and those who are worried about the status of the upcoming Spring Semester, he said everything will be okay.
Tanner added, “So take heart. Remember the words of our old pioneer hymn: ‘All is well.’ The pioneers sang these in the face of trials, not in their absence.”
Prior to a campus devotional given on March 17, Tanner said, “I have felt the spirit of love, cooperation, and concern for each member of our community as we have confronted a rapidly evolving, and unparalleled situation. (...) May the spirit of aloha that has always characterized this special place continue to define who we are in the difficult days ahead.”
BYUH is not the only place in Hawaii where people of Asian descent have felt the effects of fears over the coronavirus. In an article published by Hawaii News Now on Feb. 15, Rick Daysog reported foot traffic in Honolulu’s Chinatown had “plunged 30 percent in the wake of the recent coronavirus scare.”
In the same article, Victor Lim, of the United Chinese Society of Hawaii, said, “A lot of phobia, misunderstanding and not knowing what is really going on is causing a lot of apprehension.”
CNN featured an article on March 5 detailing a “‘racially aggravated assault’ where suspects targeted a Singapore man of Chinese ethnicity in Central London.” According to London Police, the man, Jonathan Mok, was kicked, punched and sustained serious injuries to his face due to the attack.
Another article from CNN published on Feb. 21 detailed several instances of Asian-Americans being targets of racially motivated attacks. One of the attacks listed occurred in New York, in which an Asian-American woman was hit by a man after being called “diseased.”
California Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement in relation to the increased racism shown towards people of Asian descent. “We’ve also seen a rise in racism toward Asian Americans because the virus is associated with China (...) This is unconscionable and it’s not the American way.”