Student project combats racism during COVID-19

Student project combats racism during COVID-19

Student project combats racism during COVID-19


6/18/2020

The home page of the “Combating Corona” website

The home page of the “Combating Corona” website delivers a powerful message about combating racism during the coronavirus and drives visitors to action. The website was a project of five communication students during the Fañomnåkan 2020 semester. 

Fever. Difficulty breathing. Loss of smell. By now, Google-searchers on lockdown around the world have become well-aware of the symptoms of the coronavirus and what to do if they suspect infection. But one symptom of the virus is less widely known and, historically, has been difficult to address: racial stigmas and discrimination against Asian Americans because of the virus’s origin in China. 

As the pandemic continues to dominate conversations in person and on social media, many are encountering racial comments and misconceptions that they are unsure how to address. Others have found themselves, in conversation or thought, the initiators of racial profiling or discrimination and want to become more personally aware.

For people in either situation, a group of communication majors at the University of Guam has just the resource.

Photo of Communication majors

Communication majors (clockwise from top left) Rose Facelo, Keanno Fausto, Marilea Torcelino, Ronald Fuellas, and Anthony Dujmovic meet over video conference during the coronavirus lockdown to develop a website addressing racial stigmas and discrimination related to the pandemic. The website was an assignment of their “Intercultural Communication” class, CO-310, during the Fañomnåkan 2020 semester.

Communicative competence during COVID-19

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hate speech and crimes.

“We felt compelled to explore and combat COVID-19 related discrimination after constantly being exposed to news articles about Asian-American individuals being targets of hate crimes, prejudice, and racial discrimination,” said Keanno Fausto, one of the five students who created the site. “The goal of our website is to empower readers in the time of COVID-19 by teaching them how to practice intercultural communicative competence in this time of uncertainty and beyond.”

Along with Fausto, the other students behind the website are Anthony Dujmovic, Rose Facelo, Ronald Fuellas, and Marilea Torcelino. The project was an assignment for their “Intercultural Communication” class taught by Dr. Lilnabeth Somera.

“With me, personally, I follow a lot of Asian-American influencers and entertainers, so it was through those public figures where I found inspiration in starting seemingly uncomfortable, but necessary, discussions surrounding racism and taking part in some form of activism toward racial discrimination and stigma,” Torcelino said.

Information and a call to action

Over four succinctly written webpages, the website provides a history of racially charged diseases and xenophobic policies in America and documents real-life incidents and statistics of racism related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although the concerns over the coronavirus are understandable, the stereotypes and exclusion are not,” the website states.

Then, it encourages site visitors to act. The site offers four steps people can take to help stop the sentiments from perpetuating:

  1. Interrupt every biased remark
  2. Question them to understand them
  3. Educate them on stereotypes and misconceptions
  4. Echo the voice that speaks up.

The team has employed the four-step solution in conversations themselves. By following the four-part method, Dujmovic said he was able to generate a meaningful discussion and help someone improve their intercultural communicative competence.

“Since then, this individual has been active in sharing posts to help interrupt discriminatory remarks and echo the message of fighting against racism,” he said.

Platform for discussion

The site is also a platform for discussion and a place where individuals can make a pledge to practice intercultural communicative competence throughout the pandemic and beyond. It poses discussion questions at the bottom of each page and a field for comments.

“Our classmates believe that one of our website’s greatest strengths was that it generates uncomfortable, yet necessary discourse,” Fausto said.

Additionally, the students received feedback from Professor Somera that is was well-researched and effectively applied the communication principles of persuasion, interpersonal communication, and argumentation that the communication major teaches at UOG.

‘A lifelong effort’

Though the project was done as an assignment for a class that has now ended, the five students intend to maintain the site as a platform and resource.

“We believe that nurturing our ability for intercultural tolerance is not a one-time project, but a lifelong effort,” Fausto said.

Torcelino added, “The discussion surrounding racial discrimination will need to continue as long as the ignorance, stigma, and racism exist.”

Learn more about racial stigmas and discrimination related to the coronavirus, take the pledge to practice intercultural communicative competence, and engage in the discussion at the Combating Corona website: //combatingcorona.weebly.com/.