Asian-American doctors face harassment, threats as they treat coronavirus patients

Asian-American doctors are currently engaged in two battles: coronavirus and racism. Across the country, healthcare workers report that they’ve faced multiple instances of racism fueled by anti-Chinese sentiment as a result of the coronavirus. 

Anesthesiology resident Lucy Li told the Washington Post that after leaving work at Massachusetts General Hospital, she was followed by a man who yelled slurs at her on the subway while asking her why “Chinese people (are) killing everyone.”

“I’m risking my own personal health, and then to be vilified just because of what I look like,” Li told the Post. “I try not to think about that possibility when I’m at work taking care of patients. But it’s always there, at the very back of my mind.”

Asian-Americans make up 18% of U.S. doctors, and some patients have even refused to be treated by them. 

As a hospitalist in New York, Dr. Chen Fu told WBUR that coronavirus has amplified xenophobic attitudes in the U.S.

“I was walking through the subway a couple weeks ago and a gentleman came up to me and just started yelling racial slurs,” Fu told WBUR. “Most of them directed toward my Chinese ethnicity.”

He also said his mother’s car was broken into, but none of her “Chinese knick knacks” were taken.

The anti-Asian-American sentiment exacerbated by coronavirus, which was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, isn’t limited to doctors. 

In a piece for the New Yorker, journalist and novelist Ed Park writes that people were advised on Facebook by a local assemblywoman in Brooklyn to avoid frequenting Chinese businesses, as their owners may have gone to China to celebrate the Lunar New Year, a major celebration for the country and its expatriates. 

Park writes of an encounter on the street, where he was told to “get the f*** away” from someone and was told “don’t f***ing get me sick.”

A study published in April suggests that online harassment of Asian-Americans follows a similar pattern: beginning at an individual level before making its way to mainstream platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. 

Sources: Washington Post, WBUR, New Yorker, CNN

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