Campaigns against the growing racism against individuals from an Asian diaspora are being unleashed across Australia by organisations focused on the racial and economic justice of people of colour, following a spike in coronavirus-related attacks.
Earlier today, social commentator and writer Benjamin Law was among a group of influential Chinese Australians calling for national unity in an open letter.
“We are deeply concerned that the recent rise in anti-Chinese sentiment is driving a marked escalation in racial abuse towards Asian Australians,” the letter states.
Among the signatories were television chef Adam Liaw, screenwriter Tony Ayres and the non-executive director of Booktopia, Su Ming Wong.
Last month, two Marrickville residents were verbally abused on a street I often cross myself. On a Monday afternoon, Sophie Do and her sister, Rosa, crossed paths with a 17-year-old woman who yelled discriminatory obscenities at them.
“You brought corona here. Eat a bat again you dumb w****,” the woman yelled.
Sophie told news reporters she’d seen “disgusting videos from all around the world” but “I never thought I’d be in one”.
“It made me feel afraid for my sister’s safety. I knew that if I retaliated, it would’ve ended badly for us both,” she said.
“I kept my cool. I knew I took the best approach to ensure we got out of the situation safely. It made angry but mostly disappointed that we even had to hear some of the things she was saying and then be physically assaulted.”
In Perth, six banners were slung across overpasses in multiple freeways in Salter Point, Burswood, Mitchell and Yokine.
The signs displayed racist remarks including: “All this for a succulent Chinese Meal,” “China lied. People Died. No place left to hide,” and “From China With Ruv, no masks, no gloves.”
Ethnic Communities Council of WA President, Mr Suresh Rajan told WAMN NEWS, “If this is what we are seeing here in Perth, it is disgraceful and highlights what we have been saying.”
“Covid19 cannot be used as an excuse for blatant racism and vilification. It threatens the harmony we have spent years fighting for,” he said. “I have no issue with people having or taking issue with the Chinese government. However this is spilling out into action against individuals who are going about their daily activities. That is when it becomes unacceptable. If they wish to protest the Chinese Government do it through their local MP.”
“We have always felt that it was imperative that governments move early on this matter and issue a strong statement to show that this was unacceptable.”
“Our fear was that it would escalate into something like this. And sadly it has. It’s a very fine veneer of harmony in this country. It does not take much to shatter that.”
The McGowan government released a statement, saying it “condemns these signs and urges those responsible to stop and think about the hurt and pain they would be causing members of our community who come from an overseas background.”
“These divisive messages are deplorable at any time, but especially now as Western Australia deals with the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson said.
“Western Australia is a proudly multicultural state that has embraced unity, which is needed now more than ever. These signs have no place here.”
The social and cultural affects of the virus are being felt across U.S, Canada and other western nations, and further compounds the pain and fear Asian people are facing.
Last last month, Pauline Hanson tweeted “China must be held accountable for the coronachs pandemic.”
“China must be called out and any attempt to attack or critique people for referring to COVDI-19 as a ‘Chinese Virus’ should be pushed back on.”
In the last week, California-based entrepreneur, activist and writer Erin Chew, has teamed up with writer Osmond Chiu, to create a survey for Australians of Asian descent to report any cases of discriminatory behaviour against them.
“COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report: Reporting Racism Against Asians in Australia”, is now available online and Chew, who is also the founder of Asian Australian Alliance told HuffPost back in January that the racism “impacts on anyone in Australia who looks Chinese, and the impacts are felt even more with Chinese/ Chinese-looking international students.”
“They can just cough or sneeze and be accused of having the virus, and this is a huge cause for concern as certain media outlets in Australia are feeding misinformation and fuelling the normalisation of the racism.”
“We’re expecting this type of thing to happen,” Chew told The Verge, back in February. “We know that people will look at our black hair and ‘yellow’ skin and target us… There’s a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, and also a lot of dread to know that when we go out, we could be subject to racism.”
These campaigns are crucial in a time when everyone’s fears are being heightened. It’s anxiety-inducing enough to navigate the public spaces, keeping yourself from harms’ way. To have to traverse the possibility of being attack for the physiognomy of your face is further proof that now, more than ever, we need speak out against the discriminatory views too many continue harbour.