When Michelle Chai took to Twitter to appeal to her followers to get a Chinese takeaway, she started an incredibly important conversation about the racism being fuelled by the current coronavirus outbreak.
It’s undeniable that one of the worst side effects to come from the coronavirus outbreak so far has to be the levels of racism it has fuelled. Last month, a worrying survey from Ipsos revealed that one in seven people in the UK would now avoid people of Chinese origin or appearance. Violent hate crimes linked to the coronavirus outbreak also continue to emerge across the UK.
It’s a side effect of the virus that continues to be overshadowed by reports of the mortality rate or new cases, but it’s no less serious. As freelance journalist Yuan Ren explained in an earlier piece for Stylist, Asian women across the country are being subjected to increasingly high levels of racism as the virus continues to spread. As she writes in her piece: “In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, I’ve been asked by people if I’ve just returned from Wuhan. I’ve also been asked to name the last date that I was in China.
“Last week, I was sat in an empty train carriage and a white woman made the point of sitting next to and coughing consistently, with her arms folded on her chest. I can’t help thinking she was making a racist point about coronavirus.”
Ren was not alone in her experience; stories such as these have quickly spread across social media. In one instance, a Vietnamese curator was told not to attend an art exhibition she was due to assist because her presence would “create hesitation” for people scared about the virus. In another, an Asian student in Los Angeles was sent to the nurse for coughing once in class – despite the fact that the other non-Asian students had not been sent out for doing the same.
And now, another, more subtler form of the racism fuelled by the coronavirus panic has been exposed by a viral tweet: the avoidance of Chinese restaurants and takeaways.
“This is going to sound kinda mad, but this week, please consider making your weekly takeout a Chinese takeaway,” Michelle Chai’s tweet reads. “My family’s businesses have all been impacted hugely by coronavirus panic.”
She continues: “Staff are having to be let go and sales are down by over half; my family have a pretty diverse income but others may not be in the same position.”
The tweet, which now has over 26,000 retweets and 156,000 likes, has since attracted a number of kind, heartwarming messages from people looking to help out and counter the racism being projected towards Asian communities – and it’s a positive reminder that there’s still some good in the world.
“Yup, we made sure to eat out at a Cantonese restaurant last week,” one response read. “Birmingham’s Chinese business group put out a call for extra visitors! So important.”
“Our local said they were suffering so we had two last week just to help out and having another this weekend – there’s usually about eight of us so it’s a fair bill,” replied another.
“Awful,” another response read. “We had one on Saturday night because I read that people were being so stupid! Not that I need an excuse to eat Chinese takeaway… I hope things get better soon.”
“You know what Michelle, very good point,” another user replied. “Going to order tomorrow night for my dad and then Wednesday night when I’m home for some family time with my mum.”
Replying to all the kind responses she received as a result of her original tweet, Chai thanked her followers for sharing the message.
“Holy moly. I’ve been at work all day and did NOT expect this to gain so much traction. Thanks for being so kind (for the most part!) and for sharing the Tweet!”
While these interactions are a comforting reminder that there’s still some good in the world, it’s important that we all take a stand against the racism being fuelled by the coronavirus. In situations like the current one, its easy to feel helpless – but supporting Asian communities and fighting against the people who are being discriminatory is a great place to start.
So next time you’re looking to order a takeaway, take it upon yourself to go out and support Chinese businesses. It’s a small step you can take to make the world a better, more empathetic place – and those small actions all add up.