Stop using coronavirus to justify racism

Jokes about the illness are racist and insensitive

Yohann+Agnelot%2FAll+Creative+Commons%2FFlickr

Yohann Agnelot/All Creative Commons/Flickr

By Anna Dao, Collegian Contributor

Contrary to popular belief, being Chinese does not automatically render you a threat to public health safety.

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, also known as 2019nCoV is an illness spread from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing, believed to originate from Wuhan, China. Since its outbreak, it feels as though the only thing spreading faster than the illness itself is the blatant racism and xenophobia that many Americans have clung to during this crisis.

Many have taken to the internet to voice these feelings. For example, when James Corden, a popular television host, posted a photo with BTS, a Korean Pop boy band, an account retweeted the photo with the caption, “BREAKING: James Corden dies of the coronavirus.” Although this appears to be a tasteless joke, it perpetuates the idea that Asians should be avoided due to their potential to carry the virus. In fact, an account tweeted out a much more aggressive message saying, “because of some folks in China who eat weird s— like bats, rats and snakes, the entire world is about to suffer a plague.” I originally thought that nobody could be that ignorant, but upon reviewing the comments under this specific tweet, I found that there were thousands of people who agreed with his message. That is thousands of people who genuinely believe that is the Chinese diet, which is an absolutely racist assumption and the butt of most jokes against Asians. It’s funny, because I bet these people who say horrible things about Asian culture would claim to love “exotic foods.”

Speaking of Chinese food, the racism has elevated to affect business for Chinese restaurants. In a post by blogTO, comments about the Chinese restaurant in the photo were discussing how unappealing the cuisine was, especially in light of the current events. One example was “that’s a good way to spread infectious gastritis, flu virus, hepatitis. Need I say more.” Of course, these people are willing to say this behind a screen of anonymity, but it doesn’t end there.

Jenny Ngo, a freshman at the University of Massachusetts , said, “For me I’ve felt kind of annoyed at people assuming that I have Corona just because I’m Asian. I think the way people are saying Asians are dirty and disgusting [is] offensive.” Obviously it bothers her, and feeling discriminated against is never okay. Additionally, if people are comfortable discriminating online, who’s to say that they don’t feel that way in real life? In fact, how do we know that these people have always been thinking these racist thoughts and the health crisis was the trigger that allowed them to release their blatantly xenophobic feelings? We don’t know.

In general, I feel like the United States is taking the matter extremely seriously. By ensuring that non-citizens are temporarily not allowed entry into the country, as well as quarantining citizens returning from China’s Hubei province, the country is prioritizing our citizens’ health. Although it’s nerve-wracking, put into perspective that the coronavirus is less killer than influenza, which we deal with every year.

I’m not downplaying the severity of the situation, but given that the problem is so well contained, it shows that these people are leeching onto fear and using the current events to spread feelings that are blatantly racist. This outbreak is reminiscent to the 2003 outbreak of SARS. Chinese people then and now are facing paranoia-fueled hate. How have we not learned the lesson that history has taught us? We live in a seemingly more progressive world, and yet when crisis strikes, it’s revealed that we will allow history to repeat itself. How sad.

I understand that in a time of international health crisis, people tend to start being chaotic and stressed. But to use the coronavirus as ammunition pent-up racism? There’s no justification for that. It’s just despicable.

Anna Dao is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]