Individual people are not born racist—however, the world we live in is very often a deeply racist place. Institutionalized racism has been present throughout world and American history, and decades of historical inequality have perpetuated the cycle of inequality evident in our world today. We frequently witness the targeting of specific minority groups, with this racism often going so far as to pose a threat to these groups’ livelihood and place in society.

A prime example of this phenomenon is the surge in anti-Asian sentiment during the current pandemic. A few factors are contributing to this problem; namely, the statements of our leaders, the reports of journalists and the media, and the already-existing racism in this country.

At a time when leaders should be doing everything in their power to unify the country, they are instead all too often making divisive statements, which are then reported by the media and widely spread. President Trump, for example, has repeatedly been called out for doing just this. In his references to the “Chinese Virus” or “Wuhan Virus,” Trump seems to be making a direct link between COVID-19, Chinese citizens, and the Asian community. In dealing with a virus about which more is unknown than known, people are prone to be fearful. This fear drives many to look for a group to blame—and Trump’s statements may be helping the public find this group to blame. Many seem to have latched onto his statements, placing the blame for the pandemic on the Asian community.

In fact, studies have found a spike in assaults on Asian-Americans living in the United States in the past few months. Many Asian-Americans attribute this in part to President Trump’s remarks. Racism is woven into the fabric of our society, and it is often continued and worsened by leaders who should be doing all that they can to help end it. It is a failure of leadership to instead be helping to fan the flames of racism and bigotry.

At a time where humankind must unite to combat this life-threatening virus and deal with the changes it is causing in society, world leaders should step up and advocate for peace and unity to fight against this pandemic. Asian-Americans are being targeted, seen one moment as Americans and the next as foreigners who are to blame for bringing the virus to the United States. This false narrative, blaming an ethnic group for a virus that is uncontrollable and not man-made, can only serve to hurt us more. Finger-pointing and racism have the potential to, like the coronavirus itself, spread widely and dangerously. The coronavirus sees no borders or races, and neither should we.