Hate Crime during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of an Ethnically Diverse University Student Population
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Literature Review
2.2. Method and Research Design
3.1. Chinese Students’ Experiences of Harassment
From the beginning of the coronavirus, (…) they didn’t punish me or hurt me (…) they just used some words to hate me. (…) And you know what? I’m afraid of going out privately, individually, because I always wear a face mask when I go out, but sometimes I feel afraid. So, I call my roommate or my neighbour to come with me to do some shopping.(Fen, female, Asian-Chinese)
Someone sent me a message, ‘virus’ I don’t know, I don’t know who sent it, but he sent me (…) the word ‘virus’ as an Instagram.(Huang, male, Asian-Chinese)
As an ethnic Chinese, I don’t see any difference in Leicester. […] it may be because Leicester is a city which is culturally diversified. Maybe on only one occasion, I encountered a drunk guy out, going: ‘Coronavirus’. But (…) OK, he yelled at me, OK. He even yelled at a young baby. I know that he is drunk; he is not discriminating me so (…) it just he was drunk and he had a bit [too much] he went: ‘Coronavirus’. And he yelled it at the baby. […] If he was not drunk, OK, I would feel offended.(Wen, male, Asian-Chinese)
3.2. Targeted Characteristics and Forms of Harassment
[S]o once I went out to the shops. (…) I normally keep a mask in my jacket (…) but that one time I didn’t so I just thought you know I’m just going to try my luck anyway (…). If I have to go back, I’ll go back, so walked in, (…) I did get approached by a man who was obviously a grown man, different race, and he was very very discriminatory to me for not having a mask on. He was shouting and yelling out all these racist things which obviously didn’t make sense considering that there was a lot of other people in that shop that didn’t have masks that were male and that were white but they were not approached in the exact same way but obviously because I am a woman and I am black, he felt like I must have been an easy target. (…) So I would say that would be my one experience of any kind of racism regarding the pandemic, yeah.(Valerie, female, ethnicity ‘prefer not to say’)
I’m a woman. I have the benefit unfortunately in society of being white, but you do get prejudiced being a woman. And I think I can’t fully say, because I’ve only ever worked in a supermarket during the pandemic, but I do get a lot of backlash for being a little girl telling them to put on a mask. I’ve had that said to me: ‘You’re just a little girl, you can’t tell me what to do’. And my colleague will, say who’s a boy of the exact same age—they still don’t like it but he doesn’t get the same backlash—it’s a ‘Well why should I’, rather than an attack on something else about him.(Laura, female, White-British)
I’d be having a conversation with them, just random people and then they’d be like: ‘Oh yeah but it’s your generation spreading it’ and I’d be, I was like: ‘But I’m literally working at a hospital. I’m doing everything I can do to not spread it around. I’m literally cleaning to not spread it around’, but they just did not seem to get that in their heads. And my grandad was doing it too.(Martha, female, White-British)
I’d say the only time I’ve had hatred either some of my views regarding lockdown policy when I’ve called for, as I said, the unlocking and for more leniency and for more support for certain sectors. That’s the only time I’ve ever experienced it.(Robin, male, Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups—White and Asian)
I feel a bit of discrimination in terms of the COVID passport, like that feels like a bit of an attack on freedom.(Tom, male, White-British)
3.3. Pre-Pandemic and Vicarious Experiences of Hate Crime, Discrimination and Harassment
3.3.1. Personal Experiences of Harassment outside of the Pandemic
The second day I came to Leicester, when I was walking on the street and a white man came across me and they said is that he did some bad words in Japanese. (…) This happened before coronavirus. (…) And during the corona crisis, I heard from many my friends, the Chinese friends here, they [were] abused on the street, although I, I haven’t met this (…) Because […] they have been abused so I am afraid to be abused too.(Hui, male, Asian-Chinese)
Oh, outside of the pandemic, definitely growing up, I think, for example, for me and my family go on holidays within the UK. (…) On the beach we set up some chairs and then this family made some racist comments and then moved away and moved all the tents away to a few feet further from us for some reason.(Annie, female, Asian-British Any Other Asian Background)
And growing up. And I had people normalising using slurs around me. So common ones for East Asians, (…) is the word ch***. (…) Everyone assumes you are Chinese. So people refer you to that. One time I was running for the bus and then someone was like, oh, there goes Jackie Chan. (…) If you were to use slurs to other minorities, it would be taken more seriously or people would be like: ‘Oh, you can’t say that’. But if you’re East Asian, suddenly: ‘Oh, it’s just a joke’. You go you have to take it as a joke. It’s just casual humour is just banter or whatever is just. Yeah. Different standards I feel like.(Annie, female, Asian-British Any Other Asian Background)
I just think [big UK city where she lives] is pretty pretty multicultural anyway so I’m lucky in that sense. But personally, I wouldn’t go to any less diverse areas during this pandemic. Like, I wouldn’t want to go to the beach because I have experienced racism outside of a pandemic in those areas. I can’t imagine what it would be like during a pandemic when hate crimes are more high.(Annie, female, Asian-British Any Other Asian Background)
The funny thing is when I was going out with my friends, supposed to, but an outbreak happens and because I’m a Chinese, I feel very awkward to say: ‘Hey, let’s go out’ (…) It’s not, it’s not embarrassed, but just I feel a bit more uncomfortable. And I probably assume people would think, because let’s say they have like family, you know, [fear they would] get this virus or whatever. It’s really difficult not to think that they might have that kind of perspective. But I mean, individually, I didn’t get a lot of racism. But when people are talking about this matter, it’s really difficult not to say: ‘Oh, China, blah, blah, blah’. So even though it may not be personal or whatever for China, but the thing might sound something like that.(Qian, female, Asian-Chinese)
I wouldn’t be surprised if people have thought things about me or said things about me behind my back, laughed at me, pointed at me when I didn’t notice, all of those things and I think sometimes because I’m usually in my own world, I’m a person who, I like to daydream and just mind my own business and stuff, I think that I would be less likely to notice those things than other people who are very aware of their surroundings and they’re sharp and they take on things more, so yeah, I have definitely been mistreated before because of my ethnicity and my religion, but nothing so recent and I think during the pandemic obviously because we’ve not been out as much, we’ve not encountered as many incidences like that, yeah.(Ellie, female, Asian-British Indian)
3.3.2. Vicarious Experiences of Harassment
My friend. She. She met [harassment]. But not me. And I’m a lucky person (…) [They] were screaming. They (…) said: ‘F*** off back to China’.(Ling, female, Asian-Chinese)
Well, to be honest, I haven’t been out that much in the pandemic and, even if I did, it would be where no other people are like in the park, I don’t really come across anyone there, but because of social media I have been worried to go out from what other people have told me or shared, people, especially being Asian, people call them coronavirus or blame them for COVID and so it has worried me to go out because I would be blamed or be shouted at. And I do get anxiety about that.(Annie, female, Asian-British Any Other Asian Background)
Sometimes the Western media have a lot of double standards. Yes. But China, by using human rights [against it], saying, you know [but] when they talk about what happens in most other Western countries, even if they do the same thing, they just say: ‘OK, [they] are doing something good’.(Zhang, female, Asian-Chinese)
Like, looking at media articles and things like that, I definitely think like East Asian communities were affected far more by lockdown regulations and being—they had the regulations imposed on them a lot more. And, yeah, I think it was hard on the East Asian community, especially because the racism that’s naturally within this country (…) And then also the South Asian community getting blamed for spreading the virus and, like, when you look at pictures of even just, yeah, thinking about subtle racism, like pictures of—whenever on news articles there’s like pictures of oh coronavirus is in this area, very often in those pictures it was South Asian people or East Asian people (…) And quite often, yeah, the South Asian community was just blamed for it, like: ‘oh they spread it, they’re dirty’ and things like that.(Zara, female, Asian-British Indian)
I think there was sort of not directly, you know, but there was this kind of idea of young people being selfish. I do remember that was kind of something that went around on social media from the older people, that was like: ‘Oh young people don’t care, they don’t social distance, they don’t this, they don’t that’. And I think that was probably the only time where I felt sort of personally sort of attacked for things that I wasn’t even doing. I was being sensible and there’s this kind of like tar the younger generation with the same brush kind of got a bit frustrating.(Fiona, female, White-British)
3.4. Bystander Experiences
My sister-in-law, she lives in [name of place] and she’s of Indian descent, and sometimes because of the Delta variant people give her weird looks or stay away even though it’s got nothing to do with it, it’s just because of the stigmas associated.(Lydia, female, White-British)
My friends are both Malaysian. Some people have [said] something like at the beginning, like: ‘Oh, don’t go near [friend’s name], like she’s got COVID’ and that kind of thing, which is like a joke. But it’s not very funny because it’s racist. I think [friend’s name] was a bit offended, but just kind of like she’s such a sweet girl. I think she just can’t take it like a pinch of salt. Well, [name of other friend] was quite sassy. She was like: ‘Come here, I will cough on you’ (…). I know they got a bit of [harassment] [to] do with COVID.(Cath, female, White-British)
It’s at work. I don’t work in the nicest area. A lot of our security guards are Sikh and specifically Indian and they get called a lot of—I don’t feel comfortable saying them—but you can think of what they’ve been called multiple times—and it’s usually because of asking to follow COVID restrictions and it’s usually from white middle-aged men.(Laura, female, White-British)
I’ve also seen it happen more during COVID towards you know Chinese, Korean, Japanese you know people where they say you look Chinese and they may not even be Chinese. I’ve heard people say things and it’s awful.(Abigail, female, White-British)
I know in [name of place] there’s a kind of football college that a lot of international students go to and at the start of the pandemic there were some Chinese students and people were like throwing eggs at them, which is of course horrible, and it’s like: ‘Why you associate [COVID] with them just because they’re from the country [it] originated at’.(Lydia, female, White-British)
I heard that some Chinese students did experience that [harassment, bias and discrimination during the pandemic], which is really sad (…) I just read it in the letter sent by the Vice Chancellor that this incident happened and we are supporting them.(Mariam, Female, Asian/Asian British—Indian)
I’ve never witnessed it first-hand but especially at the start [of the pandemic] there was a sense of it being a ‘Chinese virus’ kind of thing. I think probably up till March 2020 and then after that lockdown it wasn’t a Chinese virus anymore, it was a worldwide virus, so I guess that kind of phased out. But yeah, I mean I heard things at the start of the pandemic, yeah.(John, male, White-British)
Obviously with the Black Lives Matter movement and those kinds of things, we saw a lot of social media posts and all those kinds of things. So, in that an aspect and to be fair it did incite conversations within my friend group and within my family, which were interesting. But I think that, in that aspect, yes, that’s it.(Jasmine, female, Asian/Asian British—Indian)
I think it’s quite a diverse university anyway, so there isn’t really much of a majority of any particular race or background. So, I think I haven’t seen any [harassment] in my personal experience.(Zach, male, White-British)
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
- Maxmen, A.; Mallapaty, S. The COVID lab leak hypothesis: What scientists do and don’t know. Nature 2021, 594, 313–315. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Viela-Gaudefroy, J.; Lindaman, D. Donald Trump’s “Chinese virus”: The Politics of Naming. The Conversation. 2020. Available online: https://theconversation.com/donald-trumps-chinese-virus-the-politics-of-naming-136796 (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Bowling, B. Racial harassment and the process of victimization. Br. J. Criminol. 1993, 33, 231–250. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Williams, Y.R. Permission to hate: Delaware, lynching, and the culture of violence in America. J. Black Stud. 2001, 32, 3–29. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- End Violence and Racism Against East and Southeast Asian Communities. Data on Hate Crimes against ESEA People in the UK. 2021. Available online: https://evresea.com/data (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Yeh, D. COVID-19, Anti-Asian Racial Violence, and the Borders of Chineseness. Br. J. Chin. Stud. 2020, 10. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Gover, A.R.; Harper, S.B.; Langton, L. Anti-Asian Hate Crime During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring the Reproduction of Inequality. Am. J. Crim. Justice 2020, 45, 647–667. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Tessler, H.; Choi, M.; Kao, G. The Anxiety of Being Asian American: Hate Crimes and Negative Biases During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Am. J. Crim. Justice 2020, 45, 636–646. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Gray, C.; Hansen, K. Did COVID-19 Lead to an Increase in Hate Crimes Toward Chinese People in London? J. Contemp. Crim. Justice 2021, 37, 569–588. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Smith, L.E.; Duffy, B.; Moxham-Hall, V.; Strang, L.; Wessely, S.; Rubin, J.E. Anger and confrontation during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national cross-sectional survey in the UK. J. R. Soc. Med. 2021, 114, 77–90. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Farrell, S. Face Mask Rules: Retailers “Extremely Concerned” about Abuse of Staff. The Grocer. 2021. Available online: https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/people/face-mask-rules-retailers-extremely-concerned-about-abuse-of-staff/662330.article (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Kernow, C.C.G. Cornwall’s NHS Plead Please Don’t Spit at Our Staff. 2022. Available online: https://www.kernowccg.nhs.uk/staff-abuse/ (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Universities, UK. Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education; Universities UK: London, UK, 2020. [Google Scholar]
- Wertans, E.; Chakraborti, N. A Catalyst for Change: Recognising and Responding to Students’ Experiences of Harassment; Centre for Hate Studies, University of Leicester: Leicester, UK, 2020; Available online: https://le.ac.uk/-/media/uol/docs/research-centres/hate-studies/research-reports/a-catalyst-for-change-pdf.pdf (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Rashid, R. Leicester: The City That Suffered the Longest; ITV News: London, UK, 2021; Available online: https://www.itv.com/news/central/2021-02-23/leicester-the-city-thats-suffered-the-longest (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Chakraborti, N.; Clarke, A. Demystifying hate crime in an age of crises. In The Oxford Handbook of Criminology; Liebling, A., Maruna, S., McAra, L., Eds.; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, in press.
- Ozalp, S.; Williams, M.L.; Burnap, P.; Liu, H.; Mostafa, M. Antisemitism on Twitter: Collective efficacy and the role of community organisations in challenging online hate speech. Soc. Media + Soc. 2020, 6, 2056305120916850. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Burnap, P.; Williams, M.L. Us and them: Identifying cyber hate on Twitter across multiple protected characteristics. EPJ Data Sci. 2016, 5, 1–15. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Vachuska, K. Initial Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Racial Prejudice in the United States: Evidence from Google Trends. SocArXiv 2021. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Cohn, S.K., Jr. Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2018. [Google Scholar]
- Gilman, S.L. Placing the blame for COVID-19 in and on ultra-orthodox communities. Mod. Jud. 2021, 13, 1–30. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Fischer, L.S.; Mansergh, G.; Lynch, J.; Santibanez, S. Addressing disease-related stigma during infectious disease outbreaks. Disaster Med. Public Health Prep. 2019, 13, 989–994. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- MacDonald, S.J. “Community fear and harassment”: Learning difficulties and hate crime in the north-east of England. Disabil. Soc. 2015, 30, 353–367. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Chakraborti, N.; Garland, J. Reconceptualizing hate crime victimization through the lens of vulnerability and difference. Theor. Criminol. 2012, 16, 499–514. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Perry, B. In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes; Routledge: London, UK, 2001. [Google Scholar]
- Perry, B. Exploring the community impacts of hate crime. In The Routledge International Handbook on Hate Crime; Hall, N., Corb, A., Giannasi, P., Grieve, J., Eds.; Taylor and Francis: London, UK, 2014; pp. 47–58. [Google Scholar]
- Keel, C.; Wickes, R.; Benier, K. The vicarious effects of hate: Inter-ethnic hate crime in the neigborhood and its consequences for exclusion and anticipated rejection. Ethn. Racial Stud. 2022, 47, 1283–1303. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Chakraborti, N.; Hardy, S. Blood, Threats and Fears: The Hidden Worlds of Hate Crime Victims; Palgrave Macmillan: London, UK, 2019. [Google Scholar]
- College of Policing. Authorised Professional Practice Guidance on Hate Crime; College of Policing: Ryton-on-Dunsmore, UK, 2020. [Google Scholar]
- Campbell, R.; Sanders, T. Sex Work and Hate Crime; Palgrave: London, UK, 2021. [Google Scholar]
- Haft, S.L.; Zhou, Q. An outbreak of xenophobia: Perceived discrimination and anxiety in Chinese American college students before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Int. J. Psychol. 2021, 56, 522–531. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- He, J.; He, L.; Zhou, W.; Nie, X.; He, M. Discrimination and Social Exclusion in the Outbreak of COVID-19. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 2933. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Yen, D.A.-W.; Cappellini, B.; Yang, H.-P.; Gupta, S. Coping with Coping: International Migrants’ Experiences of the COVID-19 Lockdown in the UK. Br. J. Manag. 2021, 32, 1219–1241. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Yu, J. Lost in Lockdown: The Impact of COVID-19 on Chinese International Student Mobility in the US. J. Int. Stud. 2021, 11, 1–18. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- HESA. Chart 6-First Year non-UK Domiciled Students by Domicile 2006/07 to 2020/21. 2022. Available online: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/chart-6 (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Jeffreys, B. UK Universities See Boom in Chinese students; BBC News: London, UK, 2020; Available online: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-51149445 (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Khotia, K. Chinese Applicants Overtake EU as Brexit Raises UK Student Fees; Bloomberg: New York, NY, USA, 2021; Available online: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-03/china-ousts-eu-as-brexit-sparks-fee-changes-at-u-k-universities (accessed on 10 November 2022).
- Webb, A.; Gogoi, M.; Weidman, S.; Woolf, K.; Zavala, M.; Ladhani, S.N.; Pareek, M.; Gies, L.; Bayliss, C.D. Cross-Sectional Study of University Students’ Attitudes to ‘On Campus’ Delivery of COVID-19, MenACWY and MMR Vaccines and Future-Proofing Vaccine Roll-Out Strategies. Vaccines 2022, 1286, 1287. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Auerbach, C.F.; Silverstein, L.B. Qualitative Data: An Introduction to Coding and Analysis; New York University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2003. [Google Scholar]
- Bradley, E.H.; Curry, L.A.; Devers, K.J. Qualitative Data Analysis for Health Services Research: Developing Taxonomy, Themes, and Theory. Health Serv. Res. 2007, 42, 1758–1772. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed][Green Version]
- Gies, L. Freedom and patriotism in times of pandemic: Chinese international students’ readings of human rights criticism during the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown. J. Comp. Int. High. Educ. (forthcoming).
- Smith, J. Bystander Experiences of Online Gendered Hate. In The Palgrave Handbook of Gendered Violence and Technology; Powell, A., Flynn, A., Sugiura, L., Eds.; Palgrave: London, UK, 2021; pp. 395–413. [Google Scholar]
- Benier, K. The harms of hate: Comparing the neighbouring practices and interactions of hate-crime victims, non-hate-crime victims and non-victims. Int. Rev. Vict. 2017, 23, 179–201. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Iganski, P. Civil courage as a communicative act: Countering the harms of hate violence. Pragmat. Soc. 2020, 11, 316–335. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
|Demographic Characteristic||N (%)|
|White (including non-British White)||19 (55.9%)|
|≤ 22||20 (58.8%)|
|Year of study|
|First (including Foundation)||13 (38.3%)|
|Life Science||8 (23.5%)|
|Medicine & allied||4 (11.8%)|
|Natural Science||4 (11.8%)|
|Social Science||2 (5.9%)|
|UK student||26 (76.4%)|
|UK-based international students||4 (11.8%)|
|Non-UK based international students||4 (11.8%)|
Disclaimer/Publisher’s Note: The statements, opinions and data contained in all publications are solely those of the individual author(s) and contributor(s) and not of MDPI and/or the editor(s). MDPI and/or the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to people or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content.
© 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Share and Cite
Gies, L.; Gogoi, M.; Bayliss, C.D.; Pareek, M.; Webb, A.; Chakraborti, N.; Wertans, E. Hate Crime during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of an Ethnically Diverse University Student Population. COVID 2023, 3, 151-165. https://doi.org/10.3390/covid3020010
Gies L, Gogoi M, Bayliss CD, Pareek M, Webb A, Chakraborti N, Wertans E. Hate Crime during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of an Ethnically Diverse University Student Population. COVID. 2023; 3(2):151-165. https://doi.org/10.3390/covid3020010Chicago/Turabian Style
Gies, Lieve, Mayuri Gogoi, Christopher D. Bayliss, Manish Pareek, Adam Webb, Neil Chakraborti, and Emily Wertans. 2023. "Hate Crime during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of an Ethnically Diverse University Student Population" COVID 3, no. 2: 151-165. https://doi.org/10.3390/covid3020010