Rampant ignorance and misinformation about the novel coronavirus, experts say, has led to racist and xenophobic attacks against fellow Americans or anyone in the US who looks East Asian.
"With news of the coronavirus, we've seen an uptick in fear of people who look like this," said Rosalind Chou, a sociology professor at Georgia State University. "Real people are affected."
Photo: A restaurant in New York's Chinatown has no customers, despite zero cases of novel coronavirus in the state of New York.
While the novel coronavirus has infected more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,100 worldwide, it's caused far fewer deaths than the flu. The US CDC notes that "at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States."
So what can people do if they see a racist tirade or attack?
Deciding whether to act is a deeply personal choice.
"I'm not going to tell anyone it's not risky ... but I don't think staying silent is going to make anything better," said Lucy Duncan, who conducts training on bystander intervention for American Friends Service Committee.
If you do act, experts offer tips on how to stay safe and what not to do.
First, bystanders can assess the risk by seeing how many people are nearby. It's good to make eye contact with others and gauge whether you'd have allies if intervening, Duncan said.
Other tips include:
-- Keeping a safe distance between yourself and the instigator
-- Filming the event if it's OK with the victim
-- Following up with the victim after the situation is over to see whether he or she needs anything else
Of course, there are also risks to intervening. So it's important to consider your surroundings and how dangerous the instigator might be, said Andrew J. Scott, a retired police chief and president of AJS Consulting. For example:
-- Is the perpetrator much larger than you are?
-- If things get ugly, is there an easy escape route? Or are you stuck in a confined area?
If you're too nervous to intervene, the American Friends Service Committee suggests moving closer to the person being harassed so you can communicate your support.
Duncan said it's best to let perpetrators know that harassment and attacks won't be tolerated.
"The danger is if we don't speak up for each other, the number of people being targeted is going to be expanding." she said. "If they don't intervene, that kind of violence or that kind of incident becomes normalized."
This is heartbreaking! Yet it's happening everywhere. We've also seen headlines from New Zealand, Australia and Canada with the same sad picture. There are two things we can do to help: 1. Promote facts and rational analysis in the face of panic and misinformation, and 2. Eat Chinese food! Chinese restaurants are suffering because of irrational prejudice.
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