Ever since the coronavirus hit the news, some have used it as an excuse to justify racist comments against individuals of Asian descent, even here at Binghamton University.
A March 16 Pipe Dream article documented several instances of hate speech and racism toward Asian students, including slurs and racist language sent via a Google form and harassment while shopping at Walmart.
Right now, Asian students feel the same stresses and fears as their peers. Added to those fears, however, is an anxiety about how their race may be used as a justification by others to verbally or physically assault their friends, their families and even themselves. It doesn’t help that President Donald Trump has been referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus” on his Twitter, which goes against the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). According to WHO, being reckless with the language used to describe a virus can lead to profiling individuals as having an implicit blame in its origin or spread. This is especially true when hate comes from the highest authority in the country.
The Student Association released a statement denouncing these acts of racism, and BU President Harvey Stenger hinted at it in his most recent letter to the student body, writing, “This virus knows no nationality, state borders or ethnic backgrounds. We can’t place blame on or shun certain groups of people because of fear instilled by this virus.” Although this sentiment is good, it comes a little too late. Knowing that there had already been a widespread increase in racism against those of Asian descent, particularly in major metro areas such as New York City, action should have been taken immediately to prevent the issue from getting any worse or coming to BU.
Racism is always inexcusable, but to target your fellow students during a time of crisis is especially reprehensible. The Editorial Board condemns these acts of Asian discrimination and calls on BU students to be vigilant in shutting it down when it happens. All students, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, are dealing with the stress that is accompanying this global pandemic. Attacking those at their most vulnerable further worsens this situation, leaving many feeling even more unsafe than before. Many students have felt the need to stifle any coughing in public for fear of being targeted, and this is unacceptable. Nobody should be scared of being outcast because of their race.
In Pipe Dream’s article, one anonymous international student said she thought BU and the surrounding area was a safe place, but recent events have shattered that hope for her. She said, “I had already heard of issues happening in cities … but Binghamton was such a little town and so much of our population is students that I thought they understand.”
With classes, organizations and resources going online on March 19, many of the students facing this type of discrimination are left with few places to seek help and support. It’s safe to say these sort of hateful acts don’t disappear on their own. It is the responsibility of those witnessing racist discourse in their social circles, especially when the attacks are involving students, to call out and curb that type of behavior.
The Editorial Board hopes that in spite of recent incidents, BU can still provide a haven and level of safety for those facing hate in these trying times.