How Teachers Can Counter Coronavirus-Related Stigma and Racism

As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, incidents of racism against people of Chinese or Asian descent have become more and more common in American society.  Anti-Chinese sentiment and scapegoating have made Asian-Americans vulnerable to microaggressions and outright racist behaviors.  In the field of education, we have a responsibility to keep students and parents aware of civil rights issues.  We should feel empowered when responding to racist behavior in our workplaces and classrooms.  Here are some tips on how educators can confront coronavirus-related stigma.

Stop the spread of misinformation.

Being Chinese or Asian (whether of nationality or descent) does not increase your likelihood of contracting COVID-19.  Make sure to counter this misinformation when it appears, especially amongst your family or friend circles.  Teach children real preventative measures, such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and hand-washing.

Educate yourself on xenophobic stereotypes.

Don’t assume that children will make the right assumptions about people of different ethnicities: teach them about racism and racial stereotypes early.  Aim to create a safe space for all children, especially those who are members of a vulnerable population.  Beware of messaging that brands Asians or Asian-Americans as “backward,” “foreign,” or “exotic.”  Stereotypes against Asians are meant to “other” an entire group of people.

Speak up and speak out.

Interrupt racism.  Send a message that racial bias is not acceptable in your workspace or classroom.  Be consistent in your message and explain why the behavior is harmful, violent, and/or offensive.  Even remaining silent can allow perpetrators to repeat violent actions.

Learn about microaggressions and micro-affirmations.

Microaggressions are comments or behaviors that indirectly cause harm to a person on the basis of race, gender, identity, etc.  If you recognize that a microaggression has occurred, counter it with micro-affirmations: acknowledge the microaggression, confront hostility, and explain the harm of racial bias.

Emphasize positive, inclusive images.

While discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, provide images and examples of heroes from diverse backgrounds.  Make sure to respect and regard Americans of all ethnicities, whether they be emergency responders, doctors, delivery workers, grocery store workers, or ordinary members of your community.  Reflect American diversity in your curriculum.

Help people in need from all walks of life.

Dedicate yourself to community work in and out of the classroom that combats racism.  The pandemic has stratified American society to an unprecedented degree: the vulnerable are even more vulnerable now.  Donate time and resources to anti-racist causes.  These experiences will reinforce your sense of commonality with people outside your own race.

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