COVID-19 negatively impacts Chinese businesses

Alice Webster, Student Editor

COVID-19 has changed the shape of the world since mid-March. One of its most dire effects, aside from the obvious dangers of the illness itself, is the skyrocketing unemployment rate. Millions of Americans have been left jobless and unsure of their future. Over six million Americans filed for unemployment benefits the week prior to April 9 and layoffs show no sign of stopping.

Most and first affected, though, were businesses owned or staffed primarily by Chinese Americans. While most businesses began to feel the effects of COVID-19 in mid-March, Chinese businesses were affected as early as January. Xenophobia drove customers away from the very beginning of COVID-19 rumors, before any cases were confirmed in the United States, with New York’s Chinatowns losing 50%-70% of their business. The timing of this affected these businesses heavily as it corresponded with the Chinese New Year, one of the biggest money making seasons for Chinatowns. Many businesses have had to layoff employees, severely cut their hours, or even close completely for the time being. This includes restaurants, which are able to remain open in states where nonessential businesses have been closed. Despite the fact that Chinese restaurants are subject to the same cleanliness standards as all others, many Americans are too fearful to eat at them because of their Chinese American employees and symbolic connection to China, where the virus began. Even some businesses owned and operated by Asian Americans hailing from other East Asian countries have been negatively affected.

There has been public backlash to this xenophobia. On Twitter, the campaign #RacismIsAVirus is helping to raise awareness of the violence and general prejudice against Asian Americans arising during this crisis. This campaign is also selling merchandise, and the proceeds go to the nonprofit group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which provides legal and education services to Asian Americans. Similarly, Youtuber Steven Lim, most known as the host of Buzzfeed’s Worth It and cofounder of Watcher Entertainment, has launched a podcast called Hidden Narratives, in which he interviews Asian Americans across industries to see how COVID-19 has affected them.

It is important to stay educated and advocate for those who have been unfairly targeted during these trying times.