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COVID-19 fueling wave of anti-Asian racism

April 26, 2021

By Doug Cuthand


The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for over a year now and the strain has been showing. In these difficult times hatred and fear are boiling to the surface. The reaction to this pandemic is the opposite to what is really needed to bring us together and fight a common foe.

The March 16th shooting in Atlanta, Georgia should cause everyone to look into their hearts and ask themselves why this had to happen. When six out of eight murdered people are Asian, it is racism pure and simple and not some other reason like police officers and news media have reported.

This was a part of the racism, fear, and hatred against Asians that has come along with the virus. The pandemic has somehow given license to people to lash out at others as if they had created the pandemic. It’s irrational and, for some, a convenient excuse to vent their racism.

Former US president Donald Trump insisted on calling COVID-19 the “China virus” or the “kung flu.” That emboldened other racists to speak out and lay the blame on the Chinese which, in some convoluted rationalization, led to all people of Chinese or Asian descent being suspect of somehow creating and spreading the coronavirus.

But before we get on our high Canadian horse and consider our moral superiority, we must look within our own borders and address the hostility and hatred that exists among us.

In February, a Filipino-Canadian family was shouted at and discriminated against by a fellow customer in a Regina Costco. The family was loudly accused of not following social distancing rules, but the opposite was the case. The family was wearing masks and occupying their social distance, and the store manager had to intervene to restore order.

A couple of weeks earlier in Saskatoon, workers at a restaurant told a group of customers they needed to wear masks in the restaurant when not at their table. The customers “aggressively” refused, and the incident was recorded on video. The video shows one of the customers stand up from the table, raise his middle finger to staff and shout., “Go back to China.”

On Janurary 23, anti-maskers picketed outside the home of Dr. Saqub Shahab – the chief medical officer for Saskatchewan, and a person of south Asian descent. The protests were both ignorant of the dangers of COVID-19 and racist in their tone. The protesters maintain that wearing a mask somehow infringes on their fundamental rights and freedoms, even though spreading the virus is an actual and proven mortal danger to many who contract it. Medical experts agree that the combination of masks and social distancing is the best and cheapest way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Unfortunately, during this pandemic mask wearing became politicized south of the border and some of the misinformation filtered north.

Saskatchewan has a strong underlying current of racism and fear is the by-product created by misinformation and ignorance. Fear of the unknown is fertile soil for the growth of racism.

But there is nothing racist about the virus. It has no ideology or preference as to whom it uses as a host. COVID has attacked all countries on earth, and continues to spread.

Now is not a time for division and hatred. It is a time for love and understanding. It might be a cliché, but we are all in this together.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.