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COVID xenophobia: Bloggers fight back against Asian discrimination

Xenophobia against Asians during the COVID pandemic has increased steadily, and bloggers are standing up to show awareness.

“That was awkward,” read the Instagram post that Bryan Boy wrote, drawing awareness to the racial discrimination currently occurring against Asians.

Racism and xenophobia have been history’s number one approach when it comes to disease or outbreaks. And, Covid, is no exception. As soon as the disease spread outside the borders of China, much of the world opted to do one thing: blame it on the Chinese.

Issues and stories of racial discrimination against the Asian population have been trending on social media, and bloggers are paying attention. Still, no one seems to take a closer look into the different forms of this behavior.

Bloggers from all over the world have shared their experiences in the hopes of raising awareness and motivating change.

Xenophobia is everywhere

Bryan Grey Yambao is a Filipino blogger that resides in Sweden. Just last week he uploaded a picture to his Instagram sharing his experience with racism.

View this post on Instagram

THAT WAS AWKWARD. There’s this restaurant @RestaurantRiche in Stockholm that I’ve been going to for over a decade. I haven’t been there in a while and my friend @DeclanChan, who is visiting me for a few weeks, is craving for Swedish meat balls so we went there this afternoon. It wasn’t until we placed our order that we noticed all the huge posters on the wall — an illustrated portrait of a very yellow Xi Jinping with bat ears and the term “BAT MAN” by Swedish artist @ironartworks. Ever since COVID happened, many Asians around the world have gone through so much racist abuse – for instance, on social platforms, I don’t know of any Asian person who wasn’t called a “bat eater”. Now imagine being the only Asian (I’m Filipino, my friend is HK Chinese) customers inside the restaurant, it was packed and everyone was white (they had 2 Asian staff – but they’re Swedish) and then every single wall in there had posters of “Bat Man”. It was just so awkward and quite frankly, I was so embarrassed and mortified I took my Chinese friend there… we ate in silence and we left as soon as we were done. The racism was so distressing! Am I being a Karen? I hate the idea of being a Karen but it was just absolutely surreal. I was in shock. More pics on my stories.

A post shared by Bryanboy (@bryanboy) on

Yambao explained that while he was at Restaurant Richie, he noticed a poster of Xi Jinping — the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. But the poster not only illustrated the Chinese leader colored in yellow skin, but he also was drawn with bat ears. Bellow the illustration it read “Bat-Man.”

He was with his friend Declan Chan, a globetrotting pro-fashion-al based in Hong Kong. Chan is a fashion stylist and influencer, the mastermind behind numerous well-received campaigns for international luxury houses like Cartier, Estée Lauder, and Calvin Klein’s.

They were craving Swedish meatballs so they went to the “best restaurant in town that had them.” They quickly felt disappointed.

Feelings of exclusivity

The duo felt embarrassed as soon as they sat down, noticing that they were the only Asian-looking people there.

They were met with stares from everyone in the restaurant, but even more, they noticed the poster. Not wanting any drama, they stayed there for a while, but didn’t enjoy their meal at all.

Bryan shared his experience at the restaurant on Tik Tok and Instagram. Restaurant Richie responded to the post apologizing for the inconvenience.

They also said that the posters were taken off and explained that their intentions were intending to “criticize” Xi Jinping and the Chinese culture in general.

The artist “Ironartworks,” however, responded to Bryan and other bloggers, commenting on the same post with “get over with it, everyone is racist.” After realizing the mess they had put themselves into, they deleted the comment. Yet they still defended their work’s intentions on their own Instagram page.

View this post on Instagram

Tonight my “BAT MAN” blew up for beeing racist against Asian people. My intention was never for it to be. Thou racism and hate IS a part of our time and that is included in the symbolism. I cant stretch enough how much i apologise for the people who got their feelings hurt by it. I have been working with hardcore satire portraits alot and making a fool of people in power (swipe ex HATE and PUTAN). My intention of the “BAT MAN” was the same, represented by the dictator Xi Jinping and CCP’s handling of the virus outbreak. But i now, thanks to you teatching me, realised that it hit all wrong… So I repeat, my intention was only to make a fool of Xi/CCP, NOT to make a racist comment that hurt a lot of people, but i accedentally did, and I again apologise to you who feel that way. So for that sake i will take down the posts of it, but im keeping this one, to contribute too the open discussion and so you get your voices herd. That was my intention all along.

A post shared by iron (@ironartworks) on

COVID perpetuating people’s xenophobia

This just one of the many examples of racism that Asian people had to go through over the last couple of months. And, just like with the Black Lives Matter movement, Covid-19 has uncovered a system that enforces racism, not an act.

The artwork is clearly problematic, but the restaurant’s obliviousness to it is frightening. In what world is hanging a picture of a Chinese leader with bat ears and yellow-face acceptable and not denigrating an entire culture and population?

Several bloggers have come out after such incidents, and their stories only get worse.

The fact is that using bats to blame an entire nation for a world tragedy is not only uneducated but also ignorant. And it proves something far more concerning: xenophobia is real.

It is almost as if people were looking for excuses to hide their fears, particularly in uncertain times. And those with power have consistently deployed this tactic throughout history. A recent example of course is Nazi Germany, and we all know that no good came out of that.

Why? Because history has taught us that in threatening situations we have to fight. In reality Covid, again, has proven that the only solution is to be together. We are our own enemies. Bloggers know this, and are using their platforms to create awareness on this issue.