Xenophobia And Cyber-Bullying

Apr 1, 2020 by

The destructive nature of misplaced blame has been hallmarks of the American political scene since the founding of our nation. Rather than honesty and facts, political expediency lends itself to xenophobia and name calling. It is beyond time that Americans should consider stomping out this vile disease which has proven remarkably resistant to the lessons of the past.

As the great Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana once warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In times of fear, doubt, and confusion the uninformed simply look for someone to blame. Blaming “foreigners” or minorities has always been the pattern in America. This disturbing trendcontinues to this day – on steroids – after the election of President Donald Trump who has taken divisive, blame politics to new heights.

Blaming Mexico, Muslims, and “those people” has become his blaming brand. And there are many he has branded – heaping scorn and derision on others – an age-old deflection strategy that takes people’s attention off the failures of leaders.

One thing is clear: building walls does protect us from the coronavirus pandemic or the global economic meltdown bought about by failures in China and here at home. 

History Repeating Itself 

As we watch the re-run of this movie, the coronavirus/COVID-19 and concomitant Chinese xenophobia is spreading as rapidly as the virus itself.


In his unflinching and powerful book, America for Americans, noted historian Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants has been a defining feature of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump era. Lee, points out that the United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobes. Benjamin Franklin ridiculed Germans for their “strange and foreign ways.” Those already in America expressed anxiety over Irish Catholics, turning xenophobia into a national political movement as Chinese immigrants were excluded, the Japanese incarcerated, and Mexicans deported. Today Americans fear Muslims, Latinos, and the so-called ‘browning’ of America.

Who has forgotten Vincent Chin? A Chinese American, mistaken as Japanese. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat in the 1980’s by two laid-off Detroit autoworkers who blamed the Japanese for their domestic auto industries’ economic woes. Officially, it was a blow to the head that killed Vincent Chin. But in actuality it was ugly rhetoric, tolerated by a complacent American society, which set the stage for Chin’s murder.


Children Mimic Adults

What makes the current crisis even worse is when adults stoke fear and uncertainty that stirs up hatred and casts blame— an ugly wrong that can become deadly.  Ugly, venomous, prejudice and misinformation is readily absorbed by children and can be as toxic as the disease itself. 

Today with the COVID -19 virus wreaking havoc across America and much of the globe, a convenient target for the vitriol are again Asian Americans. These patriotic citizens have once again been pushed under the xenophobic bus. 

What is needed is for American educators, parents, and society at large to watch for xenophobia popping up and to be ready to knock it down as rapidly as a game of Wack-Mole. This is especially necessary with children now home from school, mobile devices in hand, with the time span from an idea entering their consciousness to being spread virally across social media – in mere milliseconds. 


First Lady Melania Trump has spoken out against cyberbullying even as her husband does it in real time across the world. Promoting positive behavior on social media among the nation’s youth was part of the First Lady’s “Be Best” initiative focused on children’s wellness. Mrs. Trump gets the power of social media saying. “It can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.” No kidding!


As we adjust to the new normal that this disruptive and deadly pandemic has wrought, let’s not lose sight of Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke’s profound words, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

As FDR said at the height of the Great Depression, “Do something and if that does not work, do something else. But for God’s sake, do something!”

It is well past time for us to DO something.
Tom Watkins served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and is viewed as a “China expert.” Read his views on@ China: https://www.chinausfocus.com/author/84/tom-watkins.html

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