A post on an official UC Berkeley Instagram account sparked concern and outrage on Thursday after listing xenophobia against Asian students as being a “normal reaction” to fears over the coronavirus threat.
Adrienne Shih, a former UC Berkeley alumni and an audience engagement editor at the Los Angeles Times, tweeted a screenshot of a post from the Instagram account @bewellcal saying, “Confused and honestly very angry about this Instagram post from an official @UCBerkeley Instagram account. When is xenophobia ever a ‘normal reaction’?”
The graphic, titled “Common Reactions”, read, “Please recognize that experiencing any of these can be normal reactions” before listing anxiety, anger, and xenophobia as points. Under xenophobia, the post read, “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about those feelings.”
In subsequent tweets, Shih expressed her disappointment by saying, “Seriously, @UCBerkeley: This post is literally normalizing racism. It’s not okay.” The @bewellcal post was soon deleted.
“I can’t stop thinking about this. I’m a proud @UCBerkeley alum but this makes me so angry and ashamed,” Shih tweeted.
“Seems like they’ve since deleted the post. But deleting ≠ an apology. In fact, it’s just sweeping it under the rug and not owning up to something deeply problematic and hurtful.
“Also, screenshots kind of live forever? Just a terrible look all around.”
Shih also tweeted that the same handout was included on the UC Berkeley official health services website.
The Twitter account for the Tang Center at Cal, UC Berkeley’s health services arm, later tweeted out an apology for the post, saying, “We apologize for our recent post on managing anxiety around Coronavirus. We regret any misunderstanding it may have caused and have updated the language in our materials.”
The “apology” widely was criticized on Twitter for being a hollow non-apology to a problematic statement seemingly normalizing xenophobia, compounded by Berkeley’s reputation for being seemingly liberal and progressive.
Amid the fears of coronavirus, East Asians around the world, regardless of specific ethnicity, have become the target of racist and xenophobic rhetoric and attacks.
NextShark has reached out to @bewellcal for further comment.
Feature Image (right) via Getty