By Venia Kontogianni,
February saw a string of bigoted, and in some cases, straight up assaulting outbursts against some Asian communities in various parts of the United States. In actuality, since the virus flew across the pond and began gaining ground in the country last year, numerous similar cases rose to the surface. However, it was mid-February when the assaults went into overdrive and almost gained the identity of an anti-movement. Some have opted to show aggression to a portion of the Asian community by targeting, more often than not, the elderly Asian population in Chinatowns, with the one in San Francisco being the epicenter of the attacks. I would like to attempt to detect, as in all violent episodes, the psychological causes.
It is speculated that the cause of this is the pandemic itself. Banking on the concoction of made-up mocking terms such as “kung flu” pertaining to the virus and the geographical extent of the assaults that stretches from coast to coast, it becomes self-evident how in the assailants’ minds the virus and its place of origin is linked to the natives. In dire situations, people often look for a scapegoat so as to divert any real responsibility from them and project it onto others, while also shedding any kind of acknowledgement for their actions and their consequences. However, in this mildly dystopian, post-virus reality, no one is to blame directly. Sadly, we cannot be adamantly certain of what actually happened, if there is indeed someone to blame or if it was just a stroke of bad luck and wrong timing.
Paradoxically, while we are dealing with an invisible enemy whose transparency cannot be sensed through basic senses and therefore, cannot be fought directly, it has affected people head-on socially, mentally, hence behaviorally and financially for the worse. On the one hand, lashing out in this manner works as a bandwagon that people jump on so as to express all the angst this situation has created. On the other, though, these people were probably vehemently racist and violent to begin with and this situation has just kicked off their unsubstantiated belief system back into motion – and action. Some news outlets made a point of mentioning that some of the assaults were made by African Americans, as if that holds any relevancy. Any adult should know better than kicking the dog and expecting it to generate a positive outcome, instead of dealing with the problem at its core. The attacks should not be treated individualistically based on the social or race group of the criminals, but rather as a single attack against a minority based on bigotry.
So where can this string of violent occurrences lead?
This mismanaged way of coping with the plight of the virus leads to three dark roads: Firstly, it feeds the beast of racism and a distorted sense of justice that has been unjustifiably appropriated by third parties, leading to brazen actions that could exceed the end of the pandemic. In other words, people could claim a false purpose of rectifying what they deem unfair by using a spate of this kind of outbursts. Secondly, it could create a precedent, into which blame is conceptualized to include shifting it onto those who stand on the sidelines of a wrong-doing, just because they were there by happenstance or have the faintest correlation to the incident or, like in this case, none at all. Thirdly, this behavior reinforces social dichotomies and more specifically, the systemic transgressions against racial minorities, when, contrarily, we should be collectively moving towards eliminating them. Even more so, when Chinatowns and the people whose finances are dependent on them have already seen a shift in their lives because of gentrification. Thankfully, not all hope is lost as volunteer groups and independent activists have joined forces to help the Chinese community by arranging campaigns, raising money and awareness nation-wide and providing escort, in order for those in need to run errands with safety.
We have all turned to ourselves more and learned to bank on them but being indignant by this twist of fate does not justify any racist actions. People lashing out against the Chinese people because they are what they perceive to be the closest thing to this ordeal, goes to show just how swiftly people assign blame and deflect from their own involvement in whatever went wrong. Instead of following the designated health rules, they choose to go out of their way to let others know how they feel and break laws in the meantime. The bottom line is, being on lockdown did not transform people into brutal racists; it only aggravated exponentially pre-existing traits of bigotry and delusion -because one has to perceptually live in some level of delusion in order to hold accountable the natives of a country as much as to attack them for something that is beyond their control. It is clear as day that despite them believing that through racism one accomplishes racial or national unity, there is no unifying factor in drawing separating lines or taking lives.
- The Guardian, ‘Black and Asian unity’: attacks on elders spark reckoning with racism’s roots. Available here
- NBC News, Multiracial mutual aid efforts help Chinatown senior citizens, Asian American communities. Available here