What is wrong with our country? Two recent headlines – “Hate crimes and biases against Asians on rise”* and “FBI warns of potential surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans amid coronavirus** – make me question the basic tenets of American society.
I take these headlines and events of which they speak personally since Jews have long been made scapegoats for no other reason than we are a minority. In the past, Jews have been blamed for the black plague and natural disasters. When the economy declines, it’s been the Jewish capitalists or communists (I can never keep track of which is which) who are at fault. I’ve already written about how some people are blaming Jews for the coronavirus. We know this is nonsense, but there are plenty of people in our country who, unfortunately, still subscribe to these ideas.
Think of the sheer stupidity of the people mentioned in the articles, particularly those who are refusing to let an Asian doctor or nurse treat them. Take a moment to ponder this: someone is trying to save your life and you won’t let them because their facial features or skin tone look a bit different than yours. These doctors and nurses are American citizens. They are our neighbors and friends. It says something terrible about our country that they are now living in fear.
Why this is happening is not that hard to discover. People are looking for someone or something to blame. There has to be a reason for the virus, they think, otherwise life has no meaning. Some people have suggested that God is punishing our society for [fill in the blank with your reason] and we have to change the laws to outlaw [fill in the blank here, too]. There are probably as many reasons suggested as there are religions.
Others look for more secular answers: someone must be responsible for this. Someone or some group must have done something that caused this to happen. Unfortunately, it’s easy to blame someone who doesn’t look like you or practice the same religion, especially when they are easy to pick out in a crowd. Right now that’s Asian Americans. After all, the president of our country called COVID-19 the “China Virus” and pointed to China as the culprit, saying that the outbreak started in a Chinese laboratory. Yet, scientists still have no idea how the virus actually started and how it originally spread. And even if that were to be true, how does that make Chinese Americans responsible?
Even worse is that it’s not just Chinese Americans who – as the article in the newspaper said – are “being shunned, verbally abused, name-called, coughed and spat on, even physically assaulted,” it’s all Asian Americans. People who are behaving irrationally don’t bother to make distinctions between different Asian American populations (file this under the heading of “they all look alike”). Prejudice treats all their communities as if they are responsible.
What a terrible time we live in, and I don’t just mean COVID-19. Plagues, viruses and other contagious diseases have always spread throughout the world. Our global economy and the ease of air travel has made it easier and faster for diseases to hit new populations. We’ve been blessed that, since the influenza pandemic of 1918-20 and the polio outbreaks in the late 1940s, we have rarely experienced a pandemic. Science has made great strides in creating vaccines and keeping us safe. Unfortunately, while scientific knowledge has increased, human nature has not changed enough to rid us of prejudice. Instead of working together and helping each other, some people are looking for someone to blame. The government must punish anyone who assaults a fellow citizen. We need to embrace our Asian American neighbors and stand beside them before we have even more deaths to mourn.
* This headline appeared in the Press and Sun-Bulletin.
** This headline was found on the ABC News website.