The Coronavirus Outbreak Is Not an Excuse to Be Racist
Racism and xenophobia are scarier than any disease
There are more than 70,000 cases of coronavirus in over 25 countries, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) live dashboard at the time of this article’s publication. About 2,100 people have died from the disease so far. To compare, about millions of people contract the flu every year, which carries a death toll of about 56,000 annually, but it feels like people are far more fearful of this previously unheard of virus they keep hearing about on the news.
Phrases like “emergency” and “crisis” have become commonplace and sure make things sound scary, but it’s not Armaggeddon yet. Yes, the coronavirus is a serious illness and should be treated with caution and care. And medical professionals are trying to spread awareness in an attempt to contain the contagious disease. Yet people are panicking and stockpiling face masks that serve little purpose in countries (like the U.S. and Canada!) where the virus is not widespread.
And when people are afraid, people can act stupid… and even racist.
Racism and xenophobia are scarier than any disease.
In France, a news headline called the coronavirus’ spread the new “Yellow Peril.” A Canadian restaurant unfortunately named “Wuhan Noodle 1950” was targeted by prank callers asking if they served bat soup (they don’t). Restaurants and businesses all around the world have erected “No Chinese” signs. Asians have noticed people avoiding them as soon as they enter a public space.
Prejudice and global xenophobia against Chinese people and other Asian communities appears to have spread further than the actual virus. The University of California, Berkeley even made a statement on social media that implied xenophobia is a “normal” response to the disease outbreak and unfortunately, they’re not entirely wrong. This is not the first time a panicking public became a prejudiced mob when faced with a life-threatening illness. The 2003 SARS outbreak severely impacted the lives and livelihoods of many Asians. Anti-Muslim racism was rampant in the states during the October 2001 anthrax scare.