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Artists Fight Coronavirus-Related Racism on Instagram

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 (Instagram/@kelyrindraws, @madame_marilou, @edacyu)

As NPR’s Code Switch reported earlier this month, anti-Asian discrimination has been on the rise since the emergence of coronavirus. As anxiety increases around the world, reports of racist abuse are showing up on social media daily, many of which are hashtagged #IAmNotAVirus. (In France, #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus has been trending.)

In objection to the spike in anti-Asian sentiment, artists, illustrators and photographers are hitting back in one of the only forums freely accessible to all during this time of social distancing and quarantine: Instagram.

Feminist activist and artist Caitlin Blunnie (@liberaljane) says, “When trends and memes related to the coronavirus first started saturating social media, you could just so clearly see racist and xenophobic undertones. With a number of news outlets using stock photos of Asian people with masks for COVID-19 content, I felt compelled to create something. ”


“We’re living in a really unique period of time,” Blunnie continues. “And I think because many of us have had to radically change the structure of lives, we’re experiencing this collective cultural moment. Historically, we have always looked for a scapegoat for our issues. It’s so hypocritical that our solution to losing our freedom to autonomy is to demean an entire group of people—many who call this country home.”

Journalist Eda Yu and genderqueer artist Chella Man—both based in New York—put masks front and center of their respective pieces with an acute understanding of how loaded that imagery is in the current climate.

Chella Man literally uses the mask for their message:

Chinese-American illustrator Rose Wong feels personally impacted by coronavirus-related xenophobia. “I get nervous when I cough on public transit,” she tells KQED. “With this piece [below] I wanted to get across how a look from someone is powerful and scary for us Chinese or Asians right now. Asians are considered the ‘model minority’ but it’s shocking to see how quickly we lose that privilege.”

The proliferation of this kind of art emerging on Instagram is also a depressing indication that anti-Asian sentiment isn’t just an American problem—it’s a global one. Swedish-Korean illustrator Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom, based in New Zealand, took inspiration from a specific incident that took place in Sweden earlier this month.

Swiss illustrator Madame Marilou‘s post says in part, “Fear makes people stupid. We know very well that a virus has no nationality,” and “The worst virus is systemic racism.”

Cécile Hoodie posted this from France:

Van T. Rudd made this in Australia:

Barcelona illustrator Guille Manchado tells KQED that his art was inspired by hearing Asians around the world speaking out against harassment. “I wanted to convey that, with this ongoing coronavirus problem,” he says, “some people’s thinking and actions simply don’t make any sense.”

Lucy Lookie was inspired to create the art below after watching how Chinese tourists were being treated in her native Thailand. “People here will avoid or straight up not let Chinese people near them by verbally telling them off,” she says. “My friend in Korea says that people are being treated like that there too, and it’s really heartbreaking.”

“I’m just a 17-year-old girl who wants people to stop being selfish,” Lucy explains. “I want to have a bright future for my life and the lives of many other children. They don’t deserve to have to stress over these things. The current climate at this point is very scary.”

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