COVID-19 has taken over conversations globally. Are you numbed by instructions to “wash your hands,” “avoid crowds” and “stock up on sanitizer?” Are you tired of getting groceries only to find out that Clorox wipes and Purell are out of stock? If you’re sick of this pandemic, allow me to clear the air: Coronavirus isn’t all that’s spreading. Racism is too.
In the picture above, these people are dressed up in traditional Chinese costumes to blame the Chinese for being the source of the coronavirus. Given the absence of a cure and the bombardment of hourly news updates, it is, unfortunately, reasonable for people to resort to fear. When fear strikes, people become irrational and get paranoid and make accusations.
Do your research. Read reliable sources, such as the CDC website. With such rapidly changing developments, be sure to stay updated with the website. If there is anything we should stock up on, it’s knowledge. Ignorance is the root cause of discrimination. Don’t get me started on the issue of terrorism and how Muslims are being wrongly blamed for the issue. When there is a lack of information, accusations fly, and in this case, the blame falls on the first victims of COVID-19: the Chinese.
The culprits of racism are, unfortunately, Asians themselves. In the UK, a few students from Malaysia went as far as hanging a sign around their necks that read: “I’m not Chinese.” In India, racism has become very explicit. In a recent case, a journalist from a north-eastern state, Arunachal Pradesh, was jeered at and called “coronavirus” in public. This callout is for the Asians: we’ve experienced racism for lifetimes so why can’t we stand up for each other now?
While society continues to point fingers at Asians, the virus shows no discrimination to who it infects next. Asians themselves have sadly followed suit in spreading rampant racism by further validating the discrimination of Chinese. Truly, these are the real parasites that infect society.
As a Malaysian of Chinese descent, I’ve been staying in Ohio as an international student since freshman year, so the chances that I have of being a carrier are equal to those around me. Yet, I receive fearful glances and furrowed brows from people around me, which is very understandable given the perspective that the media has given us. Heck, I’m ashamed to catch myself for nearly falling for the same bait when I meet Chinese students.
When President Donald Trump coined the term, “Chinese virus”, I felt aghast on behalf of my Chinese friends. I share their feelings of heightened awareness whenever people meet and recognize Chinese features on my Malaysian face. As if we haven’t had enough to work through already, the racist term is now being circulated. Some news sources even went as far as stating that the Chinese ate bats causing the virus and are unhygienic by nature, thus, further dramatizing the stigma.
When I called my family back home in Malaysia, they were more concerned for my safety due to discrimination over my health. My aunt (who is brashly honest and I love her for that) told me that when she was abroad, she faced discrimination too. A woman recoiled at her cough and exclaimed, “coronavirus!” As a neonatal nurse, my aunt is very particular about her health, so she retaliated along the lines of, “Watch who you’re talking to—I’m a trained health professional.”
She tells me to stay strong and fight for our rights. My hope is that every one of us, Asians included, would stand together and realize who our common enemy is: the coronavirus.