University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Racializing COVID-19: A Series About the Intersections of Race and COVID-19

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Sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; the Office of Inclusion & Intercultural Relations; and Illinois Human Resources

June 11, 18, & 25, 2020

Series Overview

COVID-19 has dominated the national and international discourse for the last six months. Fears of contracting the virus, state-mandated safety precautions, and an economy in peril are issues that are at the fore for most Americans. However, for some Americans, these issues are exacerbated. This multi-part series explores racism, fear, xenophobia, and scapegoating during pandemics and times of wide-spread uncertainty. It will also discuss how structures and practices perpetuate inequities and why already marginalized groups are at greater risk of further marginalization as the COVID-19 fight rages on. The series will bring together a multi-disciplinary group of experts to explore these issues, their origins, and the societal implications if these issues continue unabated.

Session Descriptions and Recordings

Scapegoating During a Global Pandemic:
Issues of Coronavirus-Fueled Racism, Discrimination, and Harassment in the U.S. and Across the Globe

Recorded on Thursday, June 11, 2020

The coronavirus has brought with it an increase in anti-Asian rhetoric and reported hate crimes targeting Asian/Asian American people and businesses in the U.S. Similarly, Africans in parts of China and Muslims in parts of India have been accused of spreading the virus and subjected to discriminatory practices and violence. This seminar will briefly discuss the history of scapegoating minority groups during periods of unrest and how the coronavirus has fueled a resurgence of targeted racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. The seminar will also discuss how language, such as repeated use of “the China virus,” perpetuates misinformation about how the virus spreads.


  • David Chih, Director of the Asian American Cultural Center, OIIR
  • Patrick Keenan, Professor of Law, UIUC
  • Laila Hussein Moustafa, Assistant Professor of Library Administration and the Middle East and North Africa subject specialist in the International Area Studies Library
  • Rabbi Ari Naveh, Illini Hillel


  • Ross Wantland, Director, Diversity & Social Justice Education, OIIR

Is Inequality Making Us Sick?:
COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on African American, Latinx, and Indigenous Communities

Recorded on Thursday, June 18, 2020

Early data indicate that members of indigenous, African American, and Latinx communities are disproportionately represented in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths. This session discusses the role of structural inequities in health care, employment, and housing and its impact on minoritized communities in the age of COVID-19.


  • Shanondora Billiot, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
  • Rana Hogarth, Assistant Professor, History
  • Ruby Mendenhall, Associate Professor, African American Studies, Sociology
  • Adani Sanchez, Client Services Coordinator, Champaign County Health Care Consumers


  • Kaamilyah Abdullah-Span, Director of Campus Culture & Climate, OVCDEI

When Choosing to Wear a Face Covering Is a Lose-Lose Situation: State Mandates and African Americans’ Fears of Profiling and Policing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Recorded on Thursday, June 25, 2020

A number of people of color fear that wearing facial coverings could exacerbate racial profiling and place Black and Latinx people in danger. However, with African Americans, Latinx, and Indigenous people contracting COVID-19 at higher rates than other segments of the population, not wearing a facial covering puts them at a greater risk of contracting the virus. This discussion will center around the realities of these fears. It will also look at some of the emerging data in cities like New York that show that African American and Latinx residents are being policed more aggressively and cited more regularly than others for mask and social distancing violations.


  • Sundiata Cha-Jua, Associate Professor of History, African American Studies
  • Michael Schlosser, Director of the Police Training Institute
  • Nathan Stephens, Director of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, OIIR