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A Vietnamese Curator Is the Latest Victim of Discrimination Due to Coronavirus

Discrimination against people of Asian descent has increased with the spread of the coronavirus.

An Nguyen was scheduled to be part of an exhibition at the Affordable Art Fair (AFF) in London opening on March 15. Nguyen was told via email that their role at a gallery participating in the AFF would be cancelled because "Asians are being seen as carrying the virus." The email went on to say that because of this, Nguyen's presence on the stand would "create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space."

The AFF was quick to distance themselves from this email, which was sent to Nguyen by art curator and dealer Raquelle Azran, who specializes in contemporary Vietnamese fine art. The AFF posted a statement on Twitter saying "we do not condone the views or implications within the message." The gallery associated with Azran will no longer participate in the art fair.

Nguyen has urged the public to not focus on or create a witch-hunt against Azran herself. Nguyen wrote on Instagram: "If you are seeing that the issue is solely with the person in question alone it is not." Nguyen went on to explain that the email was shared, while hiding Azran's name, because there is a growing trend of seeing "non-aggressive discrimination" as acceptable.

Unfortunately, Nguyen's case is only one of many in which people of Asian descent have been discriminated against and, in some cases, physically attacked. 

On February 24, Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean studying in London, was assaulted on Oxford Street after he reacted to people making comments about his race in relation to Covid-19. A press release from the Metropolitan Police stated that "the 23-year-old victim was punched, kicked, and sustained facial injuries," Channel News Asia reported.

Mok said that he was walking along the street when he heard racist comments and the word "coronavirus" from some youths. He said that he turned to look in their direction because he didn't want them to think that "Asians are easily bullied." The group then attacked Mok and said "I don't want your coronavirus in my country." Mok told the news source, "I felt really angry...it is ridiculous people are being targeted for being Asian."

In the Netherlands, Jiye Seong-yu, a 29-year-old Korean interpreter, was biking home from a dance class on a Monday night when two men driving past her on a scooter shouted "Chinese," and tried to punch her, BuzzFeed reported. Seong-yu was able to swerve away, nearly crashing her bike, and made an online police report.

The Guardian reported on the violent attack of Pawat Silawattakun, a 24-year-old Thai tax consultant living in the UK. Silawattakun was attacked and robbed by two teenagers in west London. He told the news source that he was getting off a bus when he noticed two people filming him and shouting "Coronavirus! Coronavirus! Ha, ha!" After one of the boys stole his headphones, he ran after them for about 50 meters before stopping. When they stopped, one of the boys punched him, breaking his nose. Silawattakun said that "no one seemed to care or pay attention initially" until two people helped him get an Uber to a hospital.

In New York City, a woman wearing a face mask was attacked at a subway station on February 2. A witness reported that the scene to CNN. She described hearing a man call the woman, who appeared Asian, "a diseased bitch." The witness wrote in her statement that the woman responded saying, "Yeah, yeah, Ok go away." In the process of the witness getting out her phone to record the situation, the man hit the woman on the head. The witness started filming shortly after this and captured the woman chasing after the man, who turned around and attacked her. 

Al Jazeera reported on racially motivated acts of violence in Italy. On February 2, a 15-year-old Chinese-Italian boy was punched and kicked in the face in Bologna. He heard his attackers shout, "What are you doing in Italy? Go away! You're bringing us disease." A few days later in Cagliari, a 31-year-old Filipino man was attacked by a group of young men who accused him of "bringing the virus to Italy."

[Photo via CNN]

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