According to a recent survey, 9 in 10 (92 per cent) respondents thought their experiences of racism in Australia were related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Racism Incident Report Survey 2021, conducted by advocacy group the Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) and Osmond Chiu from think tank Per Capita, recorded 541 racist incidents in the past 15 months.
AAA’s first Preliminary COVID-19 Racism Incident Report covered 377 incidents for the period April 02, 2020 – June 02, 2020.
Melbourne-based lawyer and activist Molina Swarup Asthana says:
“Racism against Asians has manifested in various ways during the pandemic, initially with people of Chinese origin blamed and abused for spreading the virus, to other Asian communities, including South Asians targeted during subsequent waves both in Melbourne and Sydney.”
The report says that respondents who identified as having a Chinese cultural background (52 per cent) reported more incidents than other races or ethnic groups.
This was followed by Vietnamese (8.38 per cent), Malaysian (4.5 per cent), Korean (6.5 per cent), Singaporean (2.1 per cent) and Filipino (3.2 per cent).
Sadly, in terms of reporting to the authorities such as the local police, 84.8 per cent reported that they did not report their incident.
In the report, respondents noted the following locations of the race hatred incidents:
- Public street/sidewalk (27.1 per cent)
- Business: supermarket/grocery store/general stores (15.1 per cent)
- Public Transport (9.6 per cent)
- Shopping centres (8.7 per cent)
- Public park/community areas (6.2 per cent)
- Restaurants/bars/public food areas (5.4 per cent).
85.9 per cent respondents reported that they did not know the perpetrator.
Indian-origin academic Dr Rahul K. Gairola told the ABC that as he waited at a bus stop in Fremantle, south-west of Perth, a total stranger attacked him.
“I took my headphones off, and he basically began yelling and calling me a ‘terrorist’ with some colourful four-letter expletives before and after. I just shrugged and started walking off and he came up behind me … I mean, he was so close to me that there was the spit from his mouth hitting the side of my lenses.”
Dr Gairola added that the intoxicated man followed him to a nearby cafe and knocked him into a bunch of chairs and tables.
Initially the bystanders seemed apathetic to the incident and later someone called police.
“So I was a bit surprised that people were even watching, but they weren’t saying anything.”
The man eventually apologised to Dr Gairola who says that this was a “traumatic” and “intense” experience.
Dr Gairola recalls how in March 2020 a woman called him a “disease-ridden Punjabi” at a metro station in Perth.
“‘Go back to whereyou comefrom. We don’t want you. You’re not wanted around here’.”
Dr Gairola is an Indian-American who has been living in Australia for more than three years and teaches at Murdoch University.
“There is a way that even speaking and treating people based on colour is more casual, and even polite here, in ways that I had never in my life experienced before in the United States or in India.”
The federal government has condemned racist behaviour against Asian communities.
However, Erin Chew, national convener of the AAA, told the ABC that is not enough.
“That is extremely concerning that this COVID racism is not just impacting on those who look East Asian or South-East Asian, but also impacts on those who are of South Asian background and those of different migrant backgrounds.”
AAA’s launch was attended by celebrity ambassador’s Pallavi Sharda and Arka Das.
WATCH VIDEO: Launch of the COVID-19 Racism Incident Report Survey Comprehensive Report 2021