Singapore—In the wake of the current Covid-19 outbreak that is sweeping the world, some observers have said that racism and prejudice may yet prove to be a bigger problem than the coronavirus itself.
This is no joke, as even as of the writing of this article, the virus has gone on to infect over 90,000 people all around the globe, with a death toll of over 3,100.
One Singaporean student, unfortunately, experienced the horrors of racism firsthand in London, where he has been studying for two years. Jonathan Mok took to Facebook to write about a vicious attack he underwent recently, all because he’s Asian. As his assailants attacked him, he could hear one of them say, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”
Mr Mok writes that he refuses to be cowed by the attack. “To the group of guys who saw fit to attack me because of my skin colour: here’s something for you— I stood up to you because I wasn’t afraid, I’ve faced far more intimidating characters in my life. And if you think ganging up on someone who is sizeably smaller than you makes you a big man — it doesn’t. It only makes every single one of you a coward who doesn’t have the balls to take someone on 1 on 1. Grow a pair.”
Mr Mok had read of the rising incidence of racism since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus began some weeks ago, with Asians, no matter where they’re from, being targeted. He himself has been the target of “several racist statements,” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday (March 3), “some involving references to the coronavirus.”
He thought, however, that a racially-motivated assault would never happen to him, “especially on one of the busiest streets in London.”
However, as it turns out, he was wrong.
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On Monday, March 24, as he was walking down Oxford Street in London shortly past 9 o’clock in the evening, he passed by some young men in a group. One of the men addressed him, all he could understand was the word “coronavirus.”
He turned to look that the man who spoke, which provoked the man to shout, “Don’t you dare look at me.”
Within seconds, the man and others from his group, including a young woman, confronted Mr Mok.
“I was shocked and angry because he directed a racist remark at me and had the audacity to shout at me like I had wronged him. All of a sudden, the first punch was swung at my face and took me by surprise. When I was still shocked by the first hit, the guy delivered the second sucker punch.”
Passers-by endeavoured to step in. And while Mr Mok attempted to explain he had done nothing, another man from the group tried to kick him.
While Mr Mok tried to defend himself, he was limited from doing so as he had a broken finger.
Then the man who tried to kick him said, ‘I don’t want your coronavirus in my country’, and then punched him in the face, bloodying his nose.
The group then left before the police came.
In the hospital, Mr Mok was told that he “had suffered a few fractures in my face and might need to undergo reconstructive surgery to fix some of the bones.”
No stranger to racist remarks during his two years in London, Mr Mok now has new insights as to the nature of this type of prejudice. Once upon a time he believed that racism was grounded in stupidity, but now he believes it’s rooted in hate.
“I have believed for long that racism is grounded in stupidity, but I realise today that to say so, is not only being kind to racists, but also gives them an excuse.
Racism is not stupidity — racism is hate. Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred— and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse. From refusing service to a Chinese-looking person to racially-motivated hate crimes, every single one of these acts are based on racism. People dismiss racism with statements such as ‘it’s not all of us — only a minority are racists and this does not reflect on a city/country’. While factually true, not only it does not change the fact that this is an ugly problem that has plagued humanity for a very long time, but also it belittles this problem we have. Racism has changed its form and shape through the years and it is once again rearing its ugly head in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
People may ask me why did I not fight back? Or some might even say I shouldn’t even have turned when I heard the racist remark — but do any of these answer the question: why should anyone, simply because of the colour of their skin, be subjected to abuse, in any form, verbal or physical? Why should I keep quiet when someone makes a racist remark towards me?”