As quickly as the novel coronavirus spread throughout the world, so too did harmful misinformation about the virus, leading to fear, ignorant comments and racist sentiment toward the Asian community. Mixed with paranoia of contracting the virus is an insensitive rhetoric that not only targets those from China, but anyone noticeably of Asian descent. Ranging from verbal comments to insensitive actions to online aggression. Despite geographic distance from the origin of the disease, with about 13% of the UConn community being international students, there have been personal impacts from coronavirus and resulting discrimination on campus.
“The coronavirus is a tragic thing happening in China,” Xingyi Chen, a sixth-semester finance major, said. She is the founder of the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) under International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). ISSS is an organization that provides services and community for the international student community at UConn and advocates for fair and convenient benefits for them. “Following the combination of Tianyin’s death, Chinese international students [were] hurt deeply. We worry about our friends and family who are still in China, and there is nothing we can do here for the coronavirus.”
At the outfront, Chen mentions a noticeable difference in treatment to the international student community.
“People are treating Chinese international students different,” Chen said. She mentions a necessary awareness on campus about ending the discrimination. “I still believe most American student[s] are not, but some of them are. Stop racism and stop discrimination.”
Chen and Eric Yang, a sixth-semester communications major and Daily Campus associate video editor, both mentioned that although they themselves have not personally experienced serious incidents of offense, they feel uncomfortable with the hostility and fear expressed towards themselves and their communities.
“Me and my international friends, international students here at UConn did not really experience discrimination and racial comments in person, but definintely online and social media,” Yang said. “In tweets, you can definitely see racial comments and discrimination, not only towards Chinese people, but also Asian people. I feel like coronavirus gave the people that have these racial feelings a chance to speak out, a chance to express their racism towards Asian people.”
Not only has Chen experienced discomfort and hostility from other students as a result of coronavirus, but other people she knows have experienced similar incidents.
“More and more of my friend are experiencing some unacceptable and unfriendly treatment,” Chen said. “[One] of my friends who live in Alumni heard some racist comments from American students like ‘F–k Chinese students they are everywhere.’”
Another situation that Chen mentioned involved her friend’s dining hall supervisor asking him about the coronavirus, and expressing “relief” when Chen’s friend said that he did not return to China over winter break. She expressed sadness at the number of incidents she can mention.
“Another one of my friends went to a club event, and some American students said they are going to establish a band called ‘Wuhan Band,’ [where] everyone who is in the group needs to wear a mask to sing,” Chen mentioned.
Both Yang and Chen express a need for more empathy and understanding surrounding coronavirus and those who may be personally and emotionally affected.
“The whole coronavirus situation that is going on in China right now is [a] very unfortunate situation,” Yang said. He called attention to the heroism of the people that are working to try to find a solution to the health crisis. “I feel like a lot of people don’t realize it’s real people that are suffering. I just feel like the world needs a little more compassion and empathy.”
Chen expresses a similar sentiment and hopes the UConn community can work on not only educating themselves, but also being more mindful of their actions and comments.
“I was surprised about how people react[ed] after vast amounts of people are suffering and dying in another country,” Chen said. “You can choose not to help, but you can’t hurt us. We accept education here to become better [people] and [be] more inclusive, but not to laugh on other people’s sadness. In my heart, I love UConn very much, and I always think UConn is a diverse community with open-minded people, but why [do] things have to be like this?”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.