Because the novel coronavirus was first detected in China, Asian people all over the world have experienced tons of racism. People are avoiding Asian restaurants in the United States for no good reason. Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy recently faced backlash for calling the virus the "Chinese coronavirus," which is inaccurate in addition to being blatantly racist.
And now, a photo of students wearing traditional Chinese costumes, conical hats, and panda costumes while holding a sign that reads, "Corona Time" is causing outrage. In the photo, 19 students at a school in Belgium can be seen. Most are in traditional Chinese outfits, but two are wearing panda costumes.
As you can see, there's one girl in the second row from the bottom who is pulling the corners of her eyes, a traditionally derogatory gesture. The students are from Sin-Paulus Campus College Waregem, a Dutch secondary school in Belgium.
According to the Independent, the school posted the photo to its Instagram and Facebook pages, but it has since been deleted from both, its Instagram account has been changed to private, and its Facebook page has been deleted altogether.
"No explanation or statement was made by the school regarding the photo or the changes to its social media pages," the Independent reports. Of course, even though the photo was deleted, it was screenshotted and shared all over social media. It went viral on Twitter and Instagram. Vocal critics chimed in from all around the world.
Broodje Kaas Met Sambal ("Cheese Sandwich With Sambal"), a group that works to raise awareness of racism against the Asian community in the Netherlands, reposted the photo to its Instagram page and called out the school.
The caption reads, "The photo above was posted by the Sint-Paulus school community, Campus College Waregem, on their social media channels including Instagram and Facebook.
"In the meantime, the school has silently removed the photos, but this certainly does not solve the problem and shows once again how much it is necessary to deal with racism and discrimination in education."
The post continues, "As an educational institution, you have a very large influence on the future generation. The fact that you approve of this kind of behavior and promote it yourself on your channels is far from responsible and shows that something is wrong with you. Maybe it is high time to take responsibility?"
Many on Twitter wanted to know how such a blatantly coordinated racist effort didn't have any naysayers. "Who was the uneducated teacher that took their photo?" reporter Jihye Lee asked on Twitter.
Rotterdam-based photographer Rui Jun Luong also reposted the photo on Facebook and wrote, "Unbelievable. How can people get it into their head [that it is ok] to put this on, make the board, pose for the photo including gloves and pulling eyes… that this school in Belgium with the slogan ‘Warm Heart, Fresh Look, Open Mind’ approved and published.
"This IS offensive and you can’t call this playful either. This is far from playful, it is racist, ridiculing our culture and NOT FUNNY."
Some believe that ignorance is at the heart of this issue. One Twitter user wrote, "Ignorance—rather than malice or mal-intent—is apparently the seed at work here. In that sense, these particular young people must be: Forgiven, Warned, Educated. In that order."
Regardless of intent, the photo is beyond awful, extremely racist, and those responsible need to be dealt with. The school has yet to make a statement about the photo. It's past time for that.