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Op Ed: The Coronavirus Has Been Fuelling Racism

Sarah Hassan and Ayesha Khan | Whitby, Canada

The new decade has certainly started off with a bang. Among all the other good, bad and ugly things happening in the world today, the outbreak of the Coronavirus has sparked racism fears and open hostility towards those of Asian descent. So far, the Coronavirus has spread to about 16 countries including Canada, the US, UK, Australia, and Japan. However, as fast as this new virus seems to be spreading, faster still is the spread of discrimination and racism. We’re not going to write about Coronavirus itself (there are enough articles about the microbiology and diagnosis of this virus) but instead explore the unseen effects on the morale of society.

We were looking at Instagram a few days ago and found a well-informed post about how this virus is taking an immense physical and mental toll on the Asian community. The post was nothing but heartfelt frustration about the situation; yet, the comments were anything but understanding. Most of these comments said something along the lines of “Asian people deserve this because of their cultural practices”. We're not sharing the post here because we do not want to support the message of the post, or give it any more spotlight.

Many may be surprised about the uproar of anti-Asian sentiment all of a sudden. What everyone needs to realize, is that this racism is not new. For so long, stereotypes about the Asian community have lived in our T.V’s, in our books, and in our communities. It takes one event, one false-report, or one virus in this case, to make the racism hidden in popular culture to resurface once again.

The Coronavirus is somehow letting people freely be racist, small-minded, and politically-incorrect without any filter. The question remains: Why?

We think the root of all of this is misinformation and fear. Misinformation about Chinese cultural practices is spreading as fast as the virus itself. Although we won’t dive into these misconceptions, almost all of the racist justifications being used to explain the spread of this virus are generalizations. Blaming a virus on an entire culture’s practices is irrational because what one individual chooses to practice does not define the whole culture.

The toll of this racism is not simply emotional; from kids getting bullied in school, to people facing harassment in malls and on public transit, people’s fears are coming out in the wrongest of ways. Who are we, as a race, to judge and condemn others? Who is to say what one culture finds acceptable another does not? In times like these, when it has never been more important to stand together in unity among all the other problems in the world, is this the time that we turn on each other?

Many people recognize that the answer is in fact, no. Just ask the youngsters of our generation – Asian teens that are addressing this problem head-on through social media platforms like TikTok. Many TikTok creators are turning it around to make fun of the racism itself by creating videos that show, albeit in a funny way, that they are aware this racism exists but for no good reason. Movements on social media are also countering this racist stereotyping. An example of one of these initiatives is the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus in France, which translates to “I am not a virus.”

To counter this racism, we should all take steps to stand together in support of the Asian community. Fact-check every article or social media post you read. Don't make presumptions about someone's culture. Not everything you read will accurately portray the Chinese community's practices. It is NOT an entire culture's or group's fault that a virus is spreading. We have a social responsibility to stand up against racism and defend anyone who is being harassed because of their culture. Remind those around you to not let their fears make them forget basic respect and decency for others.


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