The Yellow Peril

The Yellow Peril is a racist metaphor that depicts Asian people as an alleged threat to Western civilization; this theme of unjustified hate is deeply rooted in the incarceration of Japanese-Americans and the surge of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Racism has always been somewhat of a norm in society, whether it’s during a world war or a pandemic. The graphic novel They Called Us Enemy describes the incarceration experience firsthand through author George Takei, who was only a child when he was forced out of his home and into a camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In modern society, this metaphor can be seen in hate crimes against the AAPI community after the outbreak of COVID-19, such as the Atlanta spa shooting in March 2021 and the death of a woman after being pushed in front of a New York City subway train in January 2022. Although these hate crimes would not have happened without the pandemic, the true problem remains at large: racism.

They Called Us Enemy

The COVID-19 pandemic has played a major role in affecting not only health worldwide but also the AAPI community. In December 2019, SARS-CoV-2 emerged in Wuhan, China and started to spread across the globe. As thousands of COVID-19 reports surfaced worldwide, the belief that Asians, specifically Chinese people, caused the outbreak started to circulate; hate and resentment toward Asians skyrocketed. The global pandemic has unintentionally induced the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes through media influence and political viewpoints, sparking the ‘Stop Asian Hate’ rallies.

As the virus rapidly spreads across the globe and anxiety intensifies, racism and xenophobia toward Asians have exponentially risen. The pandemic has “enabled the spread of racism and created national insecurity, fear of foreigners, and general xenophobia.” With the belief that Asians caused the pandemic, the AAPI community suffered, and will continue to suffer, from the unjustified resentment in forms of verbal abuse, physical violence, or derogatory slurs. These forms of racism instill fear into the lives of Asian Americans, resulting in constant anxiety and fear while out in public. According to a national survey of 1141 US residents, “over 40% of [the] sample reported they would engage in at least one discriminatory behavior toward people of Asian descent.” As bias and stigmatization grows, factors such as prejudice and bias initiate acts of violence and harassment aimed to supposedly retaliate against Asians. With rising discrimination and hostility amidst the pandemic, the AAPI community experiences the racial transgressions and backlash.

Photo by Tim Durgan on

Through social media influence and news outlets, racist terms used to identify the virus have become an important factor in the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. As cases of COVID-19 arose around the world, the association of the pandemic with the Asian race came into use, naming the coronavirus as “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” through former President Donald Trump. By connecting a race or place to a medical term, the media fuels anti-Asian racism, leading to an accumulation of rancor; use of language from influential figures play a large role in catalyzing hate crimes. These labels ultimately lead to negative conceptions and fallacy toward individuals of Asian descent. As people partake on using these phrases, they force the image of an illness一unclean, diseased, and germs一onto Asians; this harmful image ensues detrimental microaggressions and overall damage to the AAPI community.

Virtually shared experiences with racial discrimination has allowed more individuals to become aware of the aggression toward Asian Americans. Activism within the AAPI community has brought attention to the mounting violence and hate, intending to change the erroneous views on Asians. From rallying against hate crimes to confronting other racial issues, such as “better ballot access and greater political representation [and] expanding Asian American history instruction in schools,” the AAPI community continues to fight for justice and equal opportunities; they strive to minimize microaggressions in all environments, including schools, workplaces, and public areas. The rallies also aim to distribute knowledge regarding racially-motivated hate crimes and hostility toward Asian Americans.

Photo by Katie Godowski on

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