On the 17th of February 2020, COVID-19 just started spreading to Europe and there were very few cases registered in Germany. During that time, I was on an Erasmus+ youth exchange program which was organized in Bremen and we had a trip to Brussels by bus on that day. We stopped at the McDonald's to eat dinner and once I entered the McDonald's two guys saw me and one of them coughed to his hand and said “CORONAVIRUS” to my face. Then they laughed hard and went out of the restaurant.
I was so shocked and frustrated because COVID-19 had already killed around 2,500 people in Wuhan during that time and I could not imagine someone could call another human being by a virus name that would eventually kill millions of people in the future. This incident was just the beginning of the many discriminations that I would face in the future just because I am an Asian who is living in Europe. As a gender non-binary person and a member of the LGBT community, I have been discriminated against by homophobes throughout my life, and now with racism and xenophobia, it is just unbearable.
Another example of anti-Asian racism in the German media recently made headlines when Matthias Matuschik, a presenter on Bavarian radio station Bayern 3, compared K-pop boy band BTS to the COVID-19 virus after they covered the Coldplay song "Fix You." He described BTS as "some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well." His ignorant comment will increase racist attacks against Asians, and people of Asian descent around the world have been subjected to attacks and beatings, violent bullying, threats, racist abuse, and discrimination that appear linked to the pandemic.
Surely, I understand that other races cannot tell the differences between East Asians by their appearance just like most people in Asia could not tell the differences between Europeans by their appearance. However, I do not understand why some people have to say “All Asians look the same”. I can also say that “All whites or blacks look the same” but I would not tell this to someone because I was not raised like this. Racist aggressors don’t distinguish between different ethnic subgroups—anyone who is Asian or perceived to be Asian at all can be a victim.
When I was studying in Hungary, some people were greeting me by saying “Ni hao” and “Konichiwa” and I was called “Pocahontas”, “Moana”, and “Samara Morgan” because I have long, beautiful hair. I personally think that it shows their lack of knowledge about world map and history, and most importantly it shows their arrogance and stupidity. Moreover, it annoys me that people only can think of China, Japan, and Korea when they asked about Asia in general. To your knowledge, the continent of Asia is the biggest in the world in size and its current population reaches 4.6 billion, which is equivalent to about 60% of the total world population. There are 48 countries with distinct languages, histories, and cultures. It is not fair to blame 60% of the world population for the outbreak of the virus.
US President Donald Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of “Wuhan virus”, recently the “Kung flu,” has helped normalize anti-Asian xenophobia, stoking public hysteria and racist attacks. When I speak about it with my European friends, their only answer is “It is true that the virus is originated from China” like they are supporting the idea of blaming China for the outbreak of the virus while many people of Asian descent in the US and Europe are being attacked and some killed by racist terrorists because of these statements.
Diseases and outbreaks have been a big part of world history and they will be the same in the future. The next virus could originate from any country (maybe Germany) and do you also want to blame their races as well?
I cannot stop being Asian. But you can stop being an asshole.
you.wemove.eu: A hotline for hate crimes against Asians in Europe
dw.com: Asians in Germany targets of racist stereotypes, violence
vice.com: Anti-Asian Hate Is Flourishing Unchecked in Europe
hrw.org: Covid-19 Fueling Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia Worldwide
wsj.com: From BTS to Britain, Anti-Asian Racism Gets New Attention Outside the U.S.