To Mask or To Unmask, That Is the Question: Facemasks and Anti-Asian Violence During COVID-19

Choi, Hee An; Lee, Othelia EunKyoung
Journal of Human Rights and Social Work

In the wake of COVID-19, facemasks reveal the complicated dynamics of xenophobia and violence against Asian Americans within the intersections of science, religion, and cultural diversities. This review explores what some of these complications are and how they evoke anti-Asian sentiment, introducing the different intentions of facemask usage such as hygiene, religion and criminality, and scrutiny of the uniqueness of the Asian immigrant position. Analyzing the mask-related cases against Asian immigrants in the contemporary US culture, the complex sociopolitical and cultural meanings of facemasks and their transformative functions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic are explored. The facemask, as a symbol of power and control, re-fortifies itself to become another representation to escalate racial discriminations and violence against Asian immigrant groups. At the same time, it functions as a tool to protect us. Demonstrating these sociocultural complexities, this article asks us to give more attention to the current anti-Asian violence and the hidden struggles that Asian immigrants experience.