[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus an international public health emergency, it has undoubtedly been racialized.
It is normal for society to fear when there is an epidemic, however, racism and xenophobia towards Asian people has risen in the past weeks.
Xenophobia, defined by dictionary.com, is the “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.” Members of the Asian community have witnessed a surge in racist behaviour and have taken to social media to share their experiences.
This is happening on the street, in the workplace and mostly on public transport. Accounts online have described people staring when an Asian person coughs or even clears their throat on a bus, seeing other passengers moving to change seats. This is highly discriminative and offensive. Large groups of Asian people wearing face masks have also received derogatory comments and racial slurs. Fear or panic does not justify this racism.
There are extremely insensitive posts on social media such as cartoon drawings of hotel staff wearing bio hazard suits whilst serving Chinese guests. The comments and reactions underneath the post did little to defend members of the Asian community. Traditional Asian cuisine is being attacked online with the sharing of food videos labelled ‘dirty’ or ‘disgusting’.
There are also reports of Asian children being singled out in schools, with white parents enquiring if their child is at risk. No child is born a racist, this hatred is either taught or learned. Although some responses to the virus on a wider scale are rational such as cancelling flights to Wuhan, discrimination towards children is not justified. This is something that should be taken seriously.
When it comes to racism there is never any valid excuse, and the coronavirus and outpour of intolerance surrounding it and stemming from the virus, should be no exception to the rule.
There needs to be a stronger regulation and faster removal of racist posts on social media, as although it is beneficial to spread awareness, it can also be used to fuel a hate campaign. This mirrors the anti-Asian racism that we saw in 2003, as a result of the SARS epidemic.
In France, a front-page headline read “Yellow Alert” with an image of a Chinese woman wearing a mask. This caused serious offence to French Asians, who subsequently responded with the hashtag #Iamnotavirus on Twitter. This highlighted the wide-scale prejudices towards the Asian community, as they have to defend themselves and their culture.
Even local Chinese takeaways in Ireland are suffering from lack of business since the coronavirus was declared. The way in which the virus is contracted is being misconstrued and this lack of knowledge is hard to believe considering the resources available online to fact check and deflate any false information or conspiracies.
It is important to shed light on the ignorance of the Western world but most importantly on the victims of the virus. The obvious and only response should be education, not racism.
By Natasha lynch