Xenophobic targeting of US minorities unpalatable

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 14:54 |
Joe Biden takes oath as the 46th President of the US. Photo/PD/AFP

By Adhere Cavince

Mass protests have broken across US cities following gruesome murder of eight people including six women of Asian origin in Atlanta, last month. The agitations are aimed at nudging American authorities to take concrete steps and stem the spiraling wave of hate crime against minority groups. Asian Americans have particularly come under renewed racial attacks, bigotry and other forms of prejudice, in the backdrop of the raging Covid-19 global health crisis.

The pandemic-inspired hatred of Asians, and the Chinese in particular, was made worse by the political complicity of white supremacists, urged on by former US President Donald Trump. Against the advice of the World Health Organization, President Trump repeatedly referred to the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease, Chinese flu. Alongside other labels, the discriminatory and antagonistic stance by ex-US administration against the Chinese people soar up xenophobic attacks and messaging directed at the Chinese living in the US and in other places around the world.

Between March 2020 and February 2021, a total of 3,800 reports of abuse or attacks against people of Asian origin were recorded by Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based nonprofit organization tracking incidents of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Another organization, Anti-Defamation League, has documented increase in white supremacists propaganda disproportionately surged in 2020 to hit 5,125 cases of racist, anti-Semitic, and other hateful messages spread through physical flyers, stickers, banners and posters.

During such outbursts of negative energy on minority groups, innocent individuals, some who have lived their entire lives in the US are subjected to disparaging and inhumane treatment, including physical assault and even death. 

Yet discrimination and maltreatment of minorities in the US does not start and end with Chinese or individuals with Asian origins. African Americans have for decades been subjected to unfair treatment by both state and individual actors, in a practice stretching back to the slavery epoch. African Americans have experienced relatively high infections and deaths from Covid-19 disease compared to other groups in America. Even in the period of vaccinations, the black community in the US lags behind in inoculation against the deadly pandemic.

In world of complex interdependence and unprecedented cross-border mobility, xenophobic attacks on one community could easily risk lives of perceived aggressors in other countries and regions. This is why it is important to cut the vice at the source in order to secure the broader welfare of every individual, irrespective of their geographical location. 

The American authorities should therefore undertake all practical and legal measures to protect the rights, safety and well-being of minority groups. Besides referencing the violence in his first national prime-time address, President Joe Bidden has also signed a memorandum which issued guidance on how the Justice Department should respond to the escalating numbers of anti-Asian incidents. President Biden has equally banned the use of geographical names and labels to refer to the Covid-19 causing virus. These are certainly laudable steps but more needs to be done.

In order to effectively address the root causes of the violence and biases against minority groups in the US, and indeed around the world, there should be targeted and sustained education on the dangers of ethnocentrism. A closer examination of the profiling reveals deeply held historical and racial prejudices that seek to place some races or nationalities above others. Unless this is reversed through systemic education, the symptoms will always outweigh the causes. 

Finally, the US authorities must take firm and decisive legal actions against perpetrators of such xenophobic expressions, attacks and biases against minorities. All efforts should go towards making every person in the US safe from physical, mental and emotional abuse.

The writer is an international relations scholar with a focus on China-Africa relations. Twitter: @Cavinceworld.

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