Since the beginning of the pandemic in Spring 2020, Asians residing in Western Countries have encountered racial assaults at different extents and higher rates. Some incidents took place in major cities with decent reputations. The issue is prominent and the Asian community has begun the #StopAsianHate movement.
We are grateful to have Dr. Rizwan Ullah for a discussion regarding the movement against Asian hate crime. Dr. Ullah is currently a vice principal at a local secondary school and a seasoned educator. He has conducted extensive research on Chinese education for ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, who is also a board member of the Equal Opportunities Commission as well as the Youth Development Commission.
We invited Dr. Ullah to share his point of view on why there has been an increasing number of racial attacks and what is behind the rise of violence.
Fear and ignorance caused the rise of violence
Towards the main reason for the increasing number of racial attacks, Dr. Ullah shared that it is fear and ignorance, with the lack of beliefs in science. They would not have posed unnecessary fear and fear mongering attitude towards their own perception of things if they believed in science . He addressed that the situation would not have turned out this way if people had addressed Covid as a flu-like virus or a strong contagious virus at the beginning, instead of the “Wuhan Virus”. People started associating the virus with China, and began the label and the whole propaganda.
Since then when people see Asians or anyone with yellow skin tone, they pose a perception that Asians are the carriers of Covid. And because of this ignorance and natural fear coming from humans, it has led to the emerging crisis.
“I mean, once you are scared and begin to stereotype, you would develop a sense of prejudice and discrimination against this group of community. That would eventually lead to all sorts of racial comments and worst of all, the violence”.
Dr. Ullah then shared his own witnessing of similar incidents in Hong Kong. He gave an example of the recent lockdown in areas around Jordan and how the government “ambushed” and rounded up Battery Street, Shanghai Street, Reclamation Street etc., where there were a large number of South Asians living around that area. As a result, some locals in Hong Kong began by stopping the use of delivery services such as FoodPanda, which has many employees of South Asian descent. Moreover, when Hong Kong people see South Asians in the public, they tend to avoid them as if they are the legitimate carrier of Covid-19.
However, Dr. Ullah admitted that after this massive lockdown in Jordan, there were not as many haters as the other clusters such as the “Dance Group” or “Gym Group”. Dr. Ullah then reiterated that fear and ignorance is still existent among the public, without acknowledging that Covid-19 does not identify race and will not attack one’s immune system based on skin color.
Awareness and responsiveness towards racial movements
When comparing between “Black Lives Matter”(BLM) and current ”Anti Asian Hate” movements, Dr. Ullah addressed that there is a difference in nature of the movements. The Former was triggered after the injustice on George Floyd, therefore the BLM movement was induced by the wrongful act of law enforcements. In contrast, the latter was due to the lack of information and public education about Covid, and it has resulted in people initiating all these prejudices against the Asian community. “One (BLM) is clearly wronged so even later on, Caucasians and other ethnic groups began to be supportive of this movement. However, the hatred against the “Asian Virus” is different. There is a group of people who believe that we are the virus carriers. And since Covid can affect everyone, this is an issue embedded in everyone’s backyard.” He added.
Dr. Ullah then discussed awareness and responsiveness of the movements. “With BLM, people started to understand under the influence of the media, pushing against it and making changes. For the Anti Asian Hate, unfortunately, some people lack scientific knowledge of Covid and politicians, from the West in particular, are politicizing this public health issue and weaponizing it against China particularly”. He explained with Sinovac and BioNTech vaccines as examples: Ordinary citizens go after whichever one available since they are recognized. But then some would come up with this political idea, that people should not be allowed to enter China without having Sinovac vaccinated. On the other hand, Europeans have this idea of disallowing visitors with Sinovac vaccinated.
Dr. Ullah emphasises that these politics should not be existent, since that would lead us nowhere but back to square one. “People would fear and develop annoyance and irritation, eventually tearing the society apart . Therefore politicians around the world should not politicise covid unless it is out of good gesture. Developed countries can assist the weaks by donating resources. But if you are using Covid to create racial division and an unharmonious environment, that really should not be seen in the 21st Century”. He commented.
Suggestions to minimize hate crimes against minorities
As a reputable board member of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Dr. Ullah has given several suggestions to the general public to minimise hate crimes against minorities.
He urged the public to take away our mindset as an individual. People should not be judgmental and need to fact-find things without being misled, particularly by social media. Once these prerequisites are solidified, people would start opening up our values of acceptance, respect and appreciation. However, he regretted that we are currently on the other side of the continuum, where we stereotype, prejudice, discriminate, and in some places, hurt the minorities.
“The dynamics have changed. We are no longer identified in a country by skin color.
Lastly, he addressed the importance of unity. “The dynamics have changed. We are no longer identified in a country by skin color. We are instead identified by the values we share as a human race. We can only solve problems with this mindset. Because the virus does not care if you are white or Asian. We can fix this with the right mindset. But if our mindset is still in deficit, then only God can help”. He concluded.