Coronavirus: SF State educator addresses xenophobia in the Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the coronavirus outbreak continues, Asians and Asian Americans say so is the spread of xenophobic behavior.

Doctor Russell Jeung is the Chair for the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University.

He feels, there are preconceived notions of how sick or dangerous Asian-Americans can be because of the coronavirus.

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"People are being racially profiled for being Asian looking, especially if you're wearing a mask. On social media, people are being trolled a lot. There are reports sadly of school kids getting bullied," Jeung said.

Jeung said he recently came down with the flu and compared the American flu to the coronavirus.

"People aren't calling for the quarantine of American people. The H1N1, is just as deadly," Jeung said.

He said sadly what would dispel some of the xenophobic behavior is if people who are non-Chinese get it.

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Jeung said health policies have been used to discriminate against Asians in the past. "During the Bubonic plague they quarantined Chinatown and Chinese people couldn't go in and out where white people could. And most recently in 2003, we had the SARS epidemic where we saw this happen and it's like- oh it's just SARS happening again," Jeung said.

Social media since SARS is only making xenophobic behavior worse. "I think that's made some of the racial profiling and xenophobia even more viral because you have memes, you have people saying very strong comments. And people feel more free especially with recent political situations," Jeung said.

He feels people should have compassion for those affected by the coronavirus rather than be ostracized or stigmatized.

"We need a public response to both combat the epidemic and also support the people who are facing it. That's what public health is, it's all of us working together to help improve our community health. We part of our community fabric and this time more than ever we need the support of the broader community," Jeung said.

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Recently, UC Berkeley received some backlash after the campus health care center posted on its Instagram page.

It says, "Please recognize that experiencing any of these reactions can be normal" and then lists xenophobia as a common reaction.

The university has since deleted the post and issued an the following apology:

"We apologize for our recent post on managing anxiety around coronavirus. We regret any misunderstanding it may have caused and have updated the language in our materials."

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