As we all sock into what could be a lengthy period of self-quarantine and social distancing in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus, we should realize that we need to be vigilant for another type of virus lest it be given room to spread and infect us — the virus of hatred, xenophobia and bigotry.

The Anti-Defamation League has been tracking how xenophobia, conspiracy theory and even anti-Semitism have all come into the discussion around COVID-19. This is very troubling at a time when fear and uncertainty are so prevalent, and communities who are vulnerable at the best of times, find themselves more so during this period of isolation.

COVID-19 is a virus that does not discriminate. It impacts humans across the globe, and response to it must be governed by managing the facts on the ground, and the facts of the virus. But fact does not spread as quickly as fear, and ignorance, confusion and mistrust are running rampant. These are the key ingredients fueling an extremely contagious rise of hate and bigotry.

ADL has seen and tracked the increasing expressions of bias and conspiracy theories occurring around this virus. We must resist assigning blame or scapegoating members of our community, through marginalization or even the language choices we use to describe COVID-19. The Asian-American community is facing an outbreak of bias and vilification around a disease that they had nothing to do with. Our leaders at the highest levels are playing into this bias by calling this the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus.

Throughout history, groups have been blamed and scapegoated in times of crisis. We are in a time of crisis now. As fear and concern turn to frustration and even desperation, we must stand together and resist demonizing or targeting any vulnerable members of our community. We must work to find solutions that benefit all of us and continue building an inclusive response. By standing together (while physically apart), we will come out the other side of this health crisis, and come out with our community, our common humanity, and our commitment to one another intact.


regional director, Anti-Defamation League

New Orleans