By Allie Kang
Starting in mid-December of 2019, outbreaks of an unknown disease were reported in the city of Wuhan, China. Those infected suffered severe, flu-like symptoms and it was discovered that the virus was found primarily in those who had/has a compromised immune system, targeting younger children and the elderly. As stated by Johns Hopkins Medicine Department, it was quickly discovered that the newborn disease had originated from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where live animals were sold, directly classifying the disease to be zoonotic. Upon the few people who were confirmed cases of this respiratory illness during the initial phases, the virus spread like wildfire, infecting anyone who had come in contact with the ill. Based on looking at previous pandemics, similar to this one, it was confirmed early on that this new outbreak was part of the subcategory for Coronavirus, or CoV. Ever since the disease began in 2019, researches and health professionals now refer to this seemingly daunting infectious as COVID-19.
According to The New York Times: Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Spread of the Outbreak, as of March 4, at least 95,100 people have been confirmed cases and 3,249 have died. Of those 3,249 deaths, all but 268 of them had passed in mainland China while the other deaths occurred in other countries, creating the terror of being infected worldwide. As the fears over the rapid spreading of the Coronavirus rise, the hysteria people are beginning to possess, have influenced them to become misinformed on the sources of the disease, leading to a spike in the amount of racism and xenophobic attacks people of Eastern Asian ethnicity face. For example, one the more recent racist attacks relating to the virus occurred on February 24 of this year. Johnathan Mok, a Singaporean man of Chinese ethnicity in London was physically attacked by a group of men at a busy and crowded shopping center. Once he had escaped the assault, he was left with a swollen bruise under his eye and a couple of fractures in his face, which he had to get surgically healed. “The guy who tried to kick me then said, 'I don't want your coronavirus in my country', before swinging another sucker punch at me, which resulted in my face exploding with blood," wrote Mok. Like Mok’s experience, these racially aggravated assaults are a widespread problem almost everywhere and nothing is being done to either relieve or prevent this issue. “Personally, I believe that discrimination is not acceptable and something needs to be done to control the fuming racism across the globe, not only taking regards to situations like the virus, but just in general,” Freshman Nick Davis stated passionately. Davis had continued to explain that these accusations will later go on to be used as “normal” stereotypes for people of Eastern Asian ethnicity.
Differing from the fact that most of the discrimination is shown through physical abuse, other sources of subtle racism even occur in common public facilities like restaurants and shops. Most of these stores will have papers on their front door restricting any Chinese people from coming in from the fear of the Coronavirus. Adam Stewart, another Freshman at Glenelg High School reveals how the Coronavirus-related racism is getting too much out of hand: “Racism has been present since the beginning of time and there is an extremely low chance that it will ever end. But, the fact that people are being physically abused for the virus’s close connections to a certain race and ethnicity is something that nobody should support.” He continued to explain that no matter where you are in the world, racism will never cease to exist because everybody has different beliefs and ideas; however, by taking drastic measures to limit this will not only lessen the racism, it will also decrease the physical attacks which formed as a product of racial and disease-related fear.
As the COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across the globe, situations regarding discrimination and xenophobia have been on the rise as well. With this in mind, it is important for the general public to become aware of the increasing scapegoating, belittling, and racism contributed to the disease. Already so, many have started to advocate for this cause through the use of social media. One of the popular statements made is the French phrase “#JeNeSuisPasUnVirus,” frequently being used on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, meaning “I am not a virus,” which helps spread awareness about the extreme racism to the public in hopes for more support and relief. Stewart continued to say that “...one of the easiest ways to attempt to get rid of the discrimination and racism people are being faced with is to show the perpetrators that they are wrong or let them know that the kind of actions they have taken a part in will absolutely not be tolerated. Simple.” Though it may be hard to make ends meet concerning racism, if enough people are aware of these situations and attempt to help cease these conflicts, hopefully, the racial tensions will be able to decline.