IN FULL | Dion Chang on racist Covid-19 attacks: 'I am not a virus'

19 March 2020 - 06:04 By Jessica Levitt
Dion Chang has spoken about his experience as an Asian amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Dion Chang has spoken about his experience as an Asian amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: Supplied

Well-know trend analyst Dion Chang has spoken about facing a daily deluge of racist attacks he has encountered in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a heartfelt post on Facebook, Chang said he has been lumped into a group that now faces stereotypes and racist slurs.

He said he is “lucky” that as an Asian, he has not been sworn at, beaten, spat at and accosted.

On Wednesday, the government stated that 116 people in SA had tested positive for Covid-19. The government has implemented a range of sweeping measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, including travel bans, school closures and limiting gatherings to not more than 100 people.

Here is Chang's letter in full:

The downside of self isolation is spending more time on social media and seeing what I don't usually see. In a time of coronavirus, this means the ugly face of sinophobia and blatant racism. The references are usually about the outbreak in Wuhan and what people there ate, to spark the virus.

I too am appalled at any cruelty to animals and wouldn't dream of eating any of the things they eat there, let alone something like haggis in Scotland. But that matters not.

Because of my race (not upbringing) I am lumped into a homogeneous group, tarred with stereotypes and bludgeoned with the racist slurs that come, thick, fast and unfiltered.

It is very telling what people post in their echo chambers in unguarded moments.

I count myself fortunate that, unlike other Asian people around the world, I have not been sworn at, spat at, accosted or beaten up (yes this has all happened) in a coronavirus era.

If you are not Asian I don't think you can fathom the hurt.

Just today I called out a senior journalist for an article he wrote: an economic article but framed around a meal of pangolin in China. Yes, the virus originated in China, and probably via pangolin, but this is still not 100% proven. But my point was that the article had nothing to do with eating wild animals but the economic cost of the virus, and that his framing as such, fanned the flames of sinophobia.

It was only with the ongoing support of another journalist and a professor of media studies, that this journalist finally saw how inappropriate his flippant comments were. He initially brushed it off as “irony”.

This is my response to him, when he eventually DM'd me:

Thanks for reaching out. The snide comments, micro aggressions or just blatant racist comments are rising daily. It’s visceral, hurtful and exhausting. I’m self isolating not because I’m panicked about coronavirus, but because I just don’t want to come face to face with sinophobia - yet again - in a supermarket queue, walking in a mall, or other public spaces.

People say “just let it go”, but just like calling people out on the #metoo movement, I can't. It took an entire afternoon's “twar” with this journalist, but he has since re-edited his article. So it was worth it, but it is exhausting.

And that's why I'm feeling drained.