Social Media Is Providing a Sense of Community for Those Targeted by Racist Attacks During the Pandemic

It’s an opportunity for brands to step up and help those in need

#WashTheHate, #RacismIsAVirus and #IAmNotCovid19 are among the hashtags that popped up after a series of hate crimes against the Asian community were reported. These are due to the fact that many Asian Americans and Asian immigrants are fearful, not only because of Covid-19 but also because of a surge in xenophobia, racism and violence.

Scrolling through social media, a string of anti-Asian incidents has bombarded my newsfeed. In New York, an Asian woman was assaulted in public. In Texas, a man stabbed a Burmese American family in an attack the FBI described as a hate crime. Reading about these incidents, I am surprised this sort of blatant racism could still happen in 2020.

More stories like these continue to appear, and these hate crimes are heartbreaking and worrying. As a Chinese American, I’ve become wary that similar incidents could happen to me or my family and friends.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, I’ve felt fearful of a possible confrontation due to my ethnicity, to the point of holding in a cough to divert unwanted attention. And I am sure there are many others who share similar or worse experiences. With more incidents being shared online, Asian Americans are using social media more than ever to organize and fight against bigotry.

On Twitter, a woman shared that if someone sees her and her Asian friends being assaulted, she would appreciate someone intervening instead of recording the incident for online fame. Tweets like these remind people to not only be reactive but proactive and play a bigger part in creating a safer environment for those around us.

Social media has become an important tool in helping minorities organize and fight back against racist attacks during this pandemic. With Covid-19 escalating, there has been an increase in panic and a need to place blame on someone else, which is why it is so important for people to use social media as a platform to share their voice and bring a sense of unity. There are those who are fueling Asian stereotypes by using ethnic slurs online; however, as a community, we can use social media to counteract these xenophobic remarks.

Encountering unwanted bigotry is terrifying, but social media is a good place to spark conversation. Although these problems will not be resolved immediately, sharing your experiences will allow you to alleviate fear by connecting with people who care.

Another effect of Covid-19 came after the first wave of confirmed cases, as the livelihood of those who own businesses changed when restaurants saw a decrease in foot traffic. My Vietnamese friend, whose family owns restaurants, said their businesses have been very slow since Covid-19 began. Many areas in America with large Asian populations have seen at least a 70% decrease in business since consumers are afraid of contracting the virus. Now, with the new law that orders restaurants to shut down their dining areas and only allow pick-up or deliveries, these Asian restaurants are seeing a bigger financial burden. With people afraid to dine at Asian restaurants, the future of these businesses is uncertain.

We also have Asian-owned businesses in America doing their best to alleviate fear. Popular fashion labels such as Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang and Self Portrait are some of the brands using social media as a tool. Social media has become a way to connect with their followers and comfort them at the peak of this global pandemic.

Chinese American designer Phillip Lim is using his Instagram account to remind others that “racism and xenophobia targeted at Asian communities will not protect us from a virus that does not discriminate based on race, gender or color.” These brands are using their platform to start conversations around the growing hate.

In the comments section for Alexander Wang’s post about Covid-19, people are expressing their gratitude and support for the brand as it remains proactive in these difficult times.

Other brands, especially smaller businesses, can learn from this by focusing their efforts on engagement with customers. Right now, with people spending less money, customer retention relies heavily on how businesses are able to effectively communicate with them.

From my experiences, updating your messaging is important because people need to know that businesses are here for them in a time of need. Marketers should connect with customers to strengthen the brand. Differentiate your brand by reminding customers that you are an enterprise that understands their hardship and sympathizes with their concerns.