The emergence of coronavirus has incited a rise in anti-Asian discrimination around the world as reports of racial abuse have surged on social media causing the hashtag “#IAmNotAVirus” to trend internationally. In response to the increase in anti-Asian sentiment artists are fighting back using one of the only forums still accessible during lockdown, Instagram.
In an interview with KQED feminist artist Caitlin Blunnie stated, “When trends and memes related to the Coronavirus first started saturating social media, you could just so clearly see racist and xenophobic undertones”. Blunnie went on to say, “Historically, we have always looked for a scapegoat for our issues. It’s so hypocritical that our solution to losing our freedom to autonomy is to demean an entire group of people”. Within Blunnie’s Coronavirus inspired illustration it states, “The Coronavirus isn’t an excuse to be racist”.
New York journalist Eda Yu has produced a creative series which discusses how masks remain powerfully charged images in the current context. On Yu’s Instagram she states, “People continue to incorrectly assume those of Asian ethnic decent are the sole carriers of the virus – acting out in irrational and xenophobic ways”.
Other Instagram artists such as Natalia Seth have protested against the “derogatory ‘Corona comments’ from people using COVID-19 as an excuse for racism”. Seth used her skills as a photographer to creatively capture the words “I Am Not A Virus” painted on her cheekbone.
Chinese-American illustrator Rose Wong told KQED, “I feel nervous when I cough in public in transit”. Wong discussed the impact of Coronavirus on Chinatowns all across America and stated “Yes, everyone should wash their hands and try to stay healthy, but let’s not forget that we are all human”.
Swedish-Korean artist Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom took inspiration from a racist incident which occurred in Gothenburg. During the incident “a 15-year old girl of Singaporean descent, born and raised in Sweden, was tapped on the shoulder by a young woman who, after first mentioning the coronavirus, asked her to get off the tram”. Sjöblom addressed other discriminatory incidents occurring within Sweden such as “Asian children being abused in various Swedish schools” and “Asian customers being denied entrance to restaurants”. Sjöblom concluded, “If you don’t want to come across racist, here’s a tip: Don’t act like a racist”.
Alternative illustrators such as Madame Marilou have used their art to say that “The worst virus is systematic racism”.
French artist Cecile Hoodie used a fortune cookie to provide the world with a piece of advice, “Stop using the virus excuse to express your racist sh*t”.
Artist Hannah Newsom Doyle channelled the hashtag throughout her work and advocated the message, “DON’T HATE. SANITATE”.
Coronavirus has unmercifully swept across the world and taken loved ones too soon. Being concealed within our homes during lockdown and having our worlds turned upside down is incredibly scary. However, we cannot allow fear to incite hatred. This virus is not discriminatory, so why should we be? We cannot stand by and watch those in our community suffer because of ignorance. The world might have changed, but my values have not. We must remain kind. We must speak up as these artists have done. We must reveal what we are truly made of as human beings.
Last modified: 28th April 2020