How Artists Are Addressing Coronavirus Related Xenophobia

Alaina Stanisci


January 26, 2022

Written in response to: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/i-am-not-a-virus-how-this-artist-is-illustrating-coronavirus-fueled-racism

Above: “I Am Not a Virus” Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom, 2020

Tackling the racism directed at the Asian community that surged with the coronavirus outbreak, Korean-Swedish artist Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom advocates for justice for herself and her community amidst a time of heightened harassment and intimidation across America. Insults, harassment, and intimidation towards the Asian community due to the COVID-19 outbreak became a widespread issue that took off in 2020. With the spread of the coronavirus, xenophobicinformation and discrimination towardsthe Asian community manifested across the country.

In fact, the Stop AAPI (Asian Pacific and Planning Council) received over 750 direct reports of discrimination against Asian Americansin the United States as of 2020 (PBS). Like Sjöblom, many artists are using their platform to put this coronavirus-fueled racism to a halt.

Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom’s, “I Am Not a Virus,” is combating this issue through her artwork. The Work aims to broaden the representation of those being discriminated against; the woman is the central focus of the image,shown isolated and wearing a mask which reminds the audience of the woman's consciousness to protect herself and others from the virus. In the image, the young Asianwoman appears harmless and is not posing a threat to the coronavirus at all, thus addressing the hostility the Asian community was experiencing and refuting the falsified claims. Depicted as unlikely to cause any more harm to the spread of the coronavirus than anybody else, the illustration reminds us of the false truths of the renewed covid xenophobia and history of anti-Asian racism in the country.

Sjöblom, an artist and graphic designer, aims to represent people of color and she particularly focuses on East Asia. Sjöblom’swork started a movement of other artists to use their platforms in a similar way. This artwork has influenced millions of people around the globe and is an irreplaceably powerful tool for activism and storytelling.

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Alaina Stanisci

Laina (she/her/hers) is a senior in high school. In her spare time, you can find her on the soccer field, skiing and eating belgium waffles, or going on hikes with her dog Ella. As somebody with mental health experience, Laina wants to someday help others become the most authentic, happy, and genuine versions of themselves.