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Sinophobia – Racism During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Francesca Menghini, Photographer

“You have to be brave to be an Asian in a European country. There is a lot of racism over here. Every day”.

I am a photographer based in Amsterdam and my works are related to social issues and

human rights. Last year, during the first months of the pandemic in Europe, I have read on Facebook something like two hundred posts of Asians dealing with really bad racism episodes here in The Netherlands. That's why I decided to start a photographic project called Sinophobia-Asians facing racism during Coronavirus pandemic, to raise awareness. People need to know that this is happening.

“Racism towards Asians didn’t begin with Coronavirus. It’s been here all the time.”

The most notorious case in The Netherlands has been that of the country’s oldest nationwide commercial radio station, Radio 10. In February 2020, it played a parody song about the coronavirus, warning listeners to avoid Chinese food because it might be spreading the disease. The song is called “Prevention is Better than Chinese”. Few days later, the Netherlands launched an online petition against racism and discrimination nationwide, which garnered more than 55,000 signatures in less than five days.

At the end of March 2021, a protest took place on the Museumplein in Amsterdam to form a voice against anti-Asian racism and violence. More than three hundred people gathered in Amsterdam whilst keeping social distance.

“Racism here has always existed. It is just floated to the surface. Everybody can see I am Asian. We are so easy to blame because we are recognizable. Not matter what nationality you are, if you are Asian you probably have something. No matter what, you came from China, you have the virus.”

One of the things that touched me the most is that in almost every country many people truly believe that racism arising from the pandemic doesn’t affect their nation. That is the reason why I am looking for volunteers, worldwide. I have an interest in listening to people all over the world, because this is not an issue that exists only in one place. The project takes place through a video call, in which everyone shares with me their experience. In the end, I am going to take a photograph through the computer screen with my camera.

“It’s tough, it’s not fun sharing, but people need to know, because they’re not going to be in my shoes. We need to share things even if this is a difficult topic. We have to communicate to get a better understanding of our society for us and the next generation. How can we destroy barriers? With communication.”

If you wish to share your experience and participate in the photographic project, please get in touch with Francesca.

Note: The quotes are excerpts or paraphrased from people who have participated in the project.

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