The Coronavirus and Modern Racism
Updated: Jul 24
News of the Coronavirus sparked fear in late January. This led to mass panic as a possible case of the Coronavirus entered the United States. The breakout originated in Wuhan City, within Hubei Province, China, according to cdc.gov.
People of Asian descent have faced racism all over the world due to this new outbreak. The terms xenophobia and modern racism started showing up on everyone’s news feeds, but what are these terms and how do they relate to the Coronavirus? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term xenophobia was coined by United States President Rutherford B. Hayes, and it means “fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners.” There is a deadly virus threatening a group of people, and due to xenophobia and implicit biases, the internet sees fit to ridicule them in this time of crisis.
On social media, there have been numerous posts labelling the Chinese people as “dirty,” attributing their way of life as a cause for the Coronavirus outbreak. Recently a video of a Chinese woman eating bat soup went viral around the world and people claim she’s in a Wuhan restaurant. Accompanying the video was a claim that the outbreak started from these Chinese practices. As a result, people of Asian descent have experienced strangers attacking them in public, from suspicious looks to nasty comments.
In the United States, our understanding of racism tends to relate directly to the Civil Rights Movement, and how people of European descent interact with those of African descent. However, in recent years, modern racism has begun to take new terrifying forms. When the Ebola virus broke in 2014, the numerous missteps, misspeaks and misdeeds of the public health system in the U.S. and beyond greatly affected the public's response to this virus. Social media posts were rampant and appalling, damning those of African descent and those in third world countries. The insensitivity of our modern generation can be attributed to social media. Now the public’s memory of the drama of the Ebola virus is influencing their response to the Coronavirus outbreak. According to The Washington Post, “BuzzFeed News for several days kept a running list of misinformation, including wildly inaccurate reports that the death toll in China was 112,000 as of late January.”
It seems as if history is repeating itself with racism being fueled by misinformation. In order to be efficient in addressing these matters as a nation, we must be color- and status-blind and not place blame on a group due to their nationality, culture, race or socioeconomic status. We need to reconsider our treatment of the Coronavirus patients and victims and not try to blame them for their misfortune just because they’re different from us.
By Rachel Van Horne, Staff Writer