Originating from the Wuhan, China, the coronavirus (now renamed Covid-19) has spread to multiple countries across the globe, including North America. The virus likely spread from bats to humans, similar to the Ebola virus.
This recent outbreak has caused paranoia and fear among American citizens, but another unintended consequence has occurred: discrimination.
Because Covid-19 came from Wuhan, countless photos and videos of Asians and Asian Americans experiencing prejudice have gone, for lack of a better word, viral.
Furthermore, many of those who fear Covid-19 use it as an excuse to group Asian people and Asian communities with fear, to be avoided, and as a cause for disgust.
Sean Day, the adviser of the International Club, and ShuMing Tan, one of his students from Hubei: a province near Wuhan. Day expressed the negative consequences of equating illness with an ethnic background.
“I think it reinforces the idea of otherness, and you know, there’s such divisive communication now in our society that highlighting that or pointing that out …” He paused, thinking it over once more, “people are already scared and apprehensive. But in the news there are reports of people not being treated equally … there’s just a lot of fear. It’s just like throwing oil on a fire.”
Day also touched on how the crisis is now a trending joke. “Humor is sort of a natural reaction that people use to lighten situations, especially the ones that they’re fearful about. But you need to be very sensitive when doing that, and very careful,” he said.
Mexicans are not the only ones who have immigrated to the U.S. Ramiez strongly believes that those trying to make it to the U.S. just want a chance at a better life.
“The biggest concern I hear from my students is not knowing whether they can go home. And if they do go home, can they come back to the U. S.? Students may have friends or relatives who are classmates, who might be affected by this, so making a joke might ease someone’s feelings about it, but how it’s perceived by other people who are already very anxious … it’s just really insensitive.”
Tan wants people to know that it’s not fair to associate Asian people with the disease. “I feel this is very far away from me because I’m in the United States,” she said.
She explained to us that even though she is an international student, she resides in America; she shouldn’t feel like an outsider in a country that she currently considers home.
Day reminded us of the resources available to students and courses of action that can be taken to prevent ignorance regarding the virus. “Know first that there are people, representatives in school that are concerned about this …[Chabot] President Sperling sent out a very timely and thoughtful message reminding everyone that we adhere to nondiscrimination,” he said.
“I think it’s important to present actual, factual information. I hear so many things, rumors. And it’s not helpful. I contacted our international students, letting them know that there are the actual websites of the CDC to look at.”
Day then informed us that the Covid-19 mortality rate is not outrageous and that the flu is a far more likely disease to contract at the moment. “The fact that this is coming from Asia seems to strike fear in many people. So just presenting facts about good cleanliness and hygiene to protect yourself regardless of what name the virus has.”
It’s important to understand that not only are people of Chinese descent, not an automatic virus hazard, but no one of any Asian descent should receive prejudiced comments as a result of the outbreak. To assume that someone is sick based on their appearance is undeniably racist.
See www.flu.gov for more information.