Before discussing the racism and xenophobia that is plaguing the American education system, it’s best to define these terms.

  • Racism: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
  • Xenophobia: Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

Ever since the pandemic rooted itself in America, making it the country with the most cases and deaths, racism has begun spreading even faster than the virus. Asians have been targets of derogatory language in media reports, social media platforms, and even schools. Before schools shut down, Asian-American students were taunted and bullied by classmates who blamed them for the disease. Now, racism and xenophobia are at an all-time high with schools continuing their online or hybrid format. Take these hate incidents towards Asian students for example:

  • On Aug. 20, 2020, during a second-grade Zoom class in Orange County, CA, a boy said, “I don’t like China or Chinese people because they started this quarantine.”
    • A Chinese American girl heard those words, and wrote a handwritten note, “This made me feel sad because he’s my friend and I’m Chinese. When you say that you don’t like Chinese people, you’re saying that you do not like me. I did not start this virus. Thank you for being my friend.”
  • Before Los Angeles public schools shut campuses in mid-March, bullies accused a 16-year-old Asian boy of having the coronavirus simply because of his race. They beat him badly enough to send him to the emergency room.
  • Limin Li, 17, a student in Brooklyn, NY, had classmates ask, “You want to go to a wet market together and get corona?”
  • In April, unknown intruders disrupted a high school Chinese class held on Zoom in Newton, MA, and attacked Lan Lan Sheng Chen and the students with racist images and slurs.
  • On March 10th in Charlottesville, VA, the Mainland Student Network at the University of Virginia reported that two Chinese international students were attacked by the assailant(s) who threw raw eggs at them from a moving vehicle.
  • On March 25 in South Bend, IN, a student at the University of Notre Dame posted racist, anti-Asian, anti-Chinese comments on their Facebook page. The student also wrote “Go home” on the Facebook page of an international student from China.
  • On March 27 in San Angelo, TX, a Korean student at Angelo State University returned to his dorm room to find that someone had placed posters about COVID-19 on his door.
  • On June 14 in Newark, DE, fliers targeting Asian and Asian-American students were found at off-campus housing at the University of Delaware, Newark. The flyers included the message "Kill China Virus."
  • On May 14 in San Luis Obispo, CA, the Cal Poly Chinese Student Association's Zoom meeting was disrupted by unknown participants who drew swastikas and filled the chatbox with xenophobic comments blaming the pandemic on people of Chinese descent.

All of these cases prove that racism and xenophobia are targeting any Asian—disregarding their American citizenship and the myriad of unique Asian ethnicities. This xenophobia is even found in elementary schools, where children are blaming their Asian peers for starting the pandemic. Asian-Americans are now afraid and angry at this injustice.

  • Euny Hong states: “If someone says, ‘You Chinese are killing us,’ I am in that moment Chinese. Whether I give the other person a piece of my mind or not — awkward, perhaps, from six feet away — my instinct should be indignation, not deflection. Because one of many lessons I’ve learned from the pandemic and its consequences is that focusing on being misidentified by a xenophobe is nothing better than trying to negotiate a more accurate insult.”
  • Cathy Park Hong is afraid: “‘I’m afraid to leave my home not because of coronavirus,’ my Asian friends say, half in jest, ‘but because I don’t want to be a victim of a hate crime.’ It doesn’t matter if our families hail from Thailand, Burma or the Philippines. Racism is indiscriminate, carpet bombing groups that bear the slightest resemblance to one another. We don’t have coronavirus. We are coronavirus.”

As Cathy Hong said, Asians are viewed as the coronavirus itself. It is a label placed upon us that acts as a target claiming “We started the pandemic. We are the cause of quarantine.” This mindset is so widespread that in any setting verbal and physical assaults against Asians have been skyrocketing since March. Now, as schools and colleges open up with their online/hybrid set up, this trend could continue to rise, but this time on school campuses.

Schools are a place of education, yet it is a breeding ground for hate, bullying, and depression. With the stress of homework, exams, and outside activities, Asians have another stressor: hate attacks. School boards need to keep in mind the physical safety and mental health of their large Asian population. Asian/Pacific Islanders constitute more than 50% in college enrollment and in NYC high schools, with 2.6 million Asian students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools. With such a large population within the education system and this ongoing racism, schools need to put a stop to racist and xenophobic acts on campus to ensure the safety of their Asian student population.