Joint Statement on Xenophobic and Racist Actions in Response to COVID-19

April 23, 2020

We strongly condemn xenophobic and racist acts arising from the global COVID-19 pandemic. International media outlets have reported on incidents worldwide targeting individuals and communities of Asian ancestry and the spread of racially targeted misinformation on social media platforms. Xenophobic and racist actions have also been reported against African and African American communities in Guangzhou, China. According to the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China:

In response to an increase in COVID-19 infections, officials in the Guangzhou metropolitan area escalated scrutiny of foreign nationals. As part of this campaign, police ordered bars and restaurants not to serve clients who appear to be of African origin. Moreover, local officials launched a round of mandatory tests for COVID-19, followed by mandatory self-quarantine, for anyone with “African contacts,” regardless of recent travel history or previous quarantine completion. African Americans have also reported that some businesses and hotels refuse to do business with them.

The reported actions are not only unjust and inhumane but serve to undermine the required global cooperation in response to COVID-19. As an interfaculty research center, the Harvard University Center for African Studies hosts an Africa-Asia Initiative, designed to explore and understand the longstanding connection between these two continents and how that history informs the contemporary relationship. Through this initiative, we have brought together students, faculty, and researchers from across Africa and Asia as well as our partner centers at Harvard University to collaborate on topics ranging from aid, trade, and migration to health and healthcare delivery.

One consistent theme has emerged across these diverse areas of research: scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge requires diverse perspectives and global cooperation in order to be successful. Global pandemics know no national boundaries. Indeed, identifying and developing the therapeutics and vaccinations that will end the COVID-19 pandemic will arise not from the work of one nation or one institution, but through the cooperation of researchers and clinicians from around the world.

It is in this spirit of global cooperation that we call for a cease to the xenophobic actions being taken in response to this global pandemic. We affirm the importance of returning principles of equity and justice to the arena of international migration and mobility, as they are a key ingredient to achieving global public health goals. We must come together to recognize our commonalities as one human race and not our racial or cultural differences. All forms of xenophobia and racism, which only serve to worsen fear, are not helpful for the safety and wellbeing of everyone around us.



  • Harvard Center for African Studies
  • FXB Center for Health & Human Rights
  • Hutchins Center for African & African American Research
  • Harvard University Asia Center
  • Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies - Harvard University
  • Harvard-Yenching Institute
  • The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University
  • Korea Institute, Harvard University
  • Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University
  • The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School