In the United States, Asian American doctors, nurses and other health workers have reported a sharp increase in racism, verbal abuse, and physical attacks
Dr. Lucy Li, a Chinese American doctor from the Boston Hospital, tries not to let fear overcome her interactions with patients and looks after every COVID-19 patient in ICU. However, she cannot forget what happened at work after the pandemic started.
A man followed Dr. Li, spewing a racist tirade as she walked to the subway. The man shouted, “Why are you Chinese people killing everyone? What is wrong with you? Why the f**k are you killing us?”
She was stunned at first but later, she was relieved that she was not physically attacked. Dr. Li says she spends days and nights helping save people’s lives, risking her own life while handling coronavirus patients.
“I’m risking my own personal health, and then to be vilified just because of what I look like,” Dr. Li said. “I try not to think about that possibility when I’m at work taking care of patients. But it’s always there, at the very back of my mind.”
Across the nation, Asian American health workers have reported a rise in such incidents. Verbal fights and racism have left Asian Americans in a painful position, especially front-line health workers who are a part of the coronavirus pandemic response.
Some patients with COVID-19 have even refused to receive treatment from Asian American doctors. Some doctors and nurses are facing harassment in their daily lives after leaving the hospital.
They have been experiencing a sharp rise in racist verbal abuse and physical attacks during the ongoing pandemic. The FBI warned of a potential increase in hate crimes against Asians as the number of coronavirus deaths continues to grow.
Sociologist Grace Kao of Yale University said, “People are worried about transmission of a disease that they associate with foreignness and Asian faces. Nothing erases what we look like.”
For weeks, President Donald Trump has been calling the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” even after guidance from public health authorities to avoid attributing ethnicity or locations to the disease. However, Trump tweeted that Asian Americans are not to be blamed for the spread of the virus.
Russell Jeung, chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University, said, “Words matter. People are making that close association between the virus and Chinese people because he [Trump] insisted on using that term.”
Jeung, who is researching xenophobia and racism amid the pandemic, said he expects violence and harassment against Asian Americans to grow in the coming months.
“With the China-bashing and with the economy tanking and more deaths from COVID-19, we expect anti-Asian bias to only increase,” he said. “People make automatic assumptions, especially in times of threats, and go into fight-or-flight mode. The fight mode is attacking or harassing Asians, and the flight mode is shunning Asians.”
Dr. Audrey Li, who wants to specialize in infectious disease, said she was repeatedly harassed by a frustrated patient asking her to go back to her country. New research has also found that online racism targeting Asians has increased as the coronavirus spreads across the world.