Talking to kids about Xenophobia
May 26, 2020
In California, a child grabbed a Singaporean woman by her arm and said, “Go back to your country. You are the reason my father died.” In New Jersey, a group of young men stalked a Korean couple pushing their one-year-old granddaughter in a stroller, saying they were all infected with coronavirus. And in the United Kingdom, an eight-year-old girl tells her best friend, who’s Chinese, that her mom won’t let her play with Chinese children anymore because they’re “virus carriers.”
These types of accounts have been on the rise ever since late 2019 outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. Between February 9 and March 7, news articles reporting hate incidents against people of Asian descent around the world increased by 50 percent, according to San Francisco State University Asian-American Studies, which partnered with the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action to launch Stop AAPI Hate to collect anti-Asian hate incidents. Since March 19, the center has received reports of nearly 2,000 incidents. And according to the Center for Public Integrity, 30 percent of all Americans and 60 percent of Asian Americans had witnessed an Asian person being blamed for COVID-19.
As an American-born Chinese and a mother, I believe it’s critical to begin a conversation with our kids about why it’s wrong to blame Asians for the coronavirus. Children are already being exposed to this bias, according to Russell Jeung, chair of Asian-American Studies at San Francisco State University: 11 percent of the incidents collected by Stop AAPI Hate in one month involved youth as targets, perpetrators, or bystanders. In the cases in which adults were present, only 11 percent intervened.
“Perhaps [children] aren’t intentionally being racist, but racist viewpoints are shaping how they think and see the world,” he says. “Kids have to unlearn this, and learn how to decouple the virus from a group of people.”
Here’s some advice from the experts on how to do that.