Just about everyone has heard about coronavirus. Originating in Wuhan, China, this virus has taken the lives of about 500 people. With this, it has also incited panic among many all around the world. Unfortunately, in many places, this panic has also taken a dark turn and given rise to racism and xenophobia, especially targeting people of East Asian descent.
Due to the fact that the disease originated in China, many people have taken to the internet posting racist comments about people of East Asian descent — some of whom aren’t even Chinese — as well as making comments against restaurants. There was even a case in Sydney, Australia where a 60-year-old Chinese man collapsed and died because onlookers did not give him CPR due to fears of contracting coronavirus. This racial profiling cost a man his life, and if it continues, it is very possible that this will happen to more people.
Coronavirus is not an excuse for people to be racist. There have been other outbreaks all over the world, but only some of them caused this amount of racism.
Take the H1N1 influenza, which is commonly known as “swine flu.” It originated in the U.S. in 2009, but it did not incite racism targeting people living in the U.S. The same is true for Mad Cow Disease, which originated in the U.K.; people did not have such despicable reactions towards certain groups of people just because of their race.
For some people, the coronavirus outbreak is just an excuse for their racism and xenophobia to become clear. This is similar to when the Ebola outbreak occurred. This virus originated in sub-Saharan Africa, so after it began spreading, many people’s racist sentiments towards anyone of African descent became very clear. It is also similar to the racism and xenophobia that emerged during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that originated in China in 2003.
When people are called out online for their racism, many of them claim that they are just joking. In fact, much of this racism has come in the form of “jokes” online. People do not realize that these “jokes” are actually racial microaggressions — a more subtle form of racism — which, yes, is still racist.
According to an article from The Verge, one tweet that went viral read, “When you eat bats and bamboo rats and s— and call it a ‘Chinese delicacy,’ why y’all be acting surprised when diseases like #coronavirus appear?”
This is just one of numerous racist tweets and posts targeting Chinese people or people of East Asian descent in general. People often target East Asian food for using “strange” animals, but the truth is that food is different within every culture. French delicacies include frog legs as well as snails, and crocodile meat is sold in many places across the U.S. These are items that certain people would not even think of eating, but it is a normal thing in other places. Yet East Asian food is often criticized more than others, and is often generalized to the whole population even if only a select group of people eat it.
The coronavirus outbreak — or any other viral outbreak for that matter—should not be the reason for people’s racism to be released. People are dying and falling severely sick, and racism of any kind is not the answer.
It is easy to blame certain groups of people for outbreaks, but it is not what people should do. Instead of throwing blame, people should treat others well if they exhibit any symptoms and not fly into a wild panic. People need to change their attitudes and behaviors before more people get harmed due to racism and xenophobia.
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Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.