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Coronavirus is spreading a wave of vile and disgusting racism on Grindr, as this Asian man found out first-hand

Josh Milton March 30, 2020
Michael Rivera has spoken out about the racism he has faced on Grindr as an Asian man since the coronavirus pandemic seized daily life. (Twitter)

Michael Rivera has spoken out about the racism he has faced on Grindr as an Asian man since the coronavirus pandemic seized daily life. (Twitter)

Michael Rivera sent a message to a guy on Grindr. A simple: “Hi, how are you?”

Seconds later, the user replied. A terse, three-pronged message: “Bye.

“Coronaviru,” he wrote, before correcting it to “coronavirus.”

We’ve been down this road too many times.

Whether the surging antisemitism provoked by the Black Death or the racism that rattled throughout the Zika outbreak, pandemic-fuelled hate towards specific regions or peoples is nothing new.

As a novel coronavirus upends normal life, bigots have taken aim with their barbed racism onto Asian folk. People of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino-decent and more find themselves clumped together by a bigotry blind of difference.

Asian folk are being yelled at. Some coughed and spat on. Some physically assaulted.

Rivera, a Hong Kong-born bioanthropologist based in the Hague in the Netherlands, told PinkNews that racism is nothing new for him, but the coronavirus crisis has provoked a “new flavour” of discrimination and racism.

What happened?

On February 17, he approached a man on Grindr only to be rejected seconds later. The blue bubbles of the man’s replies being baked in racism.

A racism, Rivera said, that has a “specific reference to a current global pandemic.

“I was born and raised in Hong Kong, where multiple epidemics have had massive effects on my home-city’s collective consciousness concerning health,” he explained.

“So when someone wants to make a judgement based on only my picture, assume I must be from a country that has lots of coronavirus-infected people, and dismiss me on that basis, that is somewhat astonishing just because it’s new.

“These sorts of responses hurt in a place that is very personal to me, given my lived experience of living in a place like Hong Kong.

He added: “Where I’m from, looking like me is very normal, but I’m ‘other’ in the eyes of many British or European people while I’m making my living over here.”

‘Coronavirus does not “come from” Asian people.’

The new pathogen – deadly but delicate – first emerged in December 2019 and was tracked down to Wuhan, China’s busy seafood and livestock market.

Despite the World Health Organisation’s guidance against using geographic locations when naming illnesses, US president Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been intent on calling coronavirus “the Chinese virus”, a corrosive moniker that has only intensified current xenophobia and racism.

“Coronavirus does not ‘come from’ Asian people, and you can’t confirm whether I’m a COVID-19 carrier based on a photo,” Rivera, an independent researcher in bioarchaeology and biological anthropology, explained.

“Finding this whole thing partly funny and partly annoying, I chose to tweet a thread about all of this to tell my story and hopefully raise awareness of the racism that has become rampant during this pandemic.”

Coronavirus racism is not just an online thing, Michael Rivera stresses.

Moreover, Rivera explained that the racism he encountered on Grindr that day was no isolated incident.

“Two weeks ago, I was taking a train with my partner into Amsterdam,” he said.

“While both of us are well, and doctors have repeatedly told us that masks do not barricade the virus from entering people’s systems, we bought them to try and promote normalising mask-wearing here.”

As the train chugged onwards, however, a group of women thronged the carriage and while walking by the pair, “decided to ‘cough’ loudly and laugh openly at us.

“When we got mocked in such a way, I was in shock and I felt embarrassed because of how culturally exceptional and ‘other’ I felt living over here yet again.”

He added: “These incidents are frequent enough even outside pandemic times, hurting people of colour in much of Canada, the US, Australia, Europe and the UK.

This coronavirus situation is only intensifying the incidence of racist behaviours targeting East and Southeast Asians.

Rivera hopes that, in raising the visibility of the verbal and, at times, physical abuse pelted towards Asian folk during the pandemic, that more will recognise privilege and the protections it offers those born into it.

“Those active in queer culture, or those who want to be good allies to queer people and people of colour, should be open to learning from stories like mine,” he said.

“Many people have said this before me, but it’s very true: when you’re confronted with how you are privileged in some way, or how others are discriminated against because of characteristics you don’t possess, drives for more inclusive and equitable culture can feel like something of your liberties and privileges is being removed or attacked.

The truth of the matter is that some white people in North America, Europe and Britain do not often ask themselves if they’re doing enough to be supportive of the people of colour around them.

“By not reflecting on how political structures and social norms are set up to reward some disproportionately to the detriment of those they exclude or oppress, ethnic minorities, immigrants and people of colour will continue being subjects of racism.”

More: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Grindr, racism, xenophobia

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