Coronavirus prompts ideas surrounding the perpetuation of racist culture

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Kelsey Riemer

“F*** the Chinese.” 

“The Chinese really on some f*** s***.”

“The Chinese tend to be so f***ing stupid and gross and dirty.”

Each of these quotations are things that have come from the mouths of my peers. 

Put yourself in the position of the population targeted with these comments.

How might it feel to have your entire identity bashed for a disease that isn’t your fault? How might it feel to be an outlier in your community because thousands of miles away from you people contracted a virus?

All sorts of racist memes and statements have surfaced on a plurality of social media platforms. One meme in particular received significant backlash, saying, “Steps to follow to stop coronavirus from spreading.” It pictured four images of a Chinese man trapped into a van then dragged out rolled into a carpet. This was only a sketch, of course. 

Nevertheless, by liking, sharing, commenting on, and laughing at that xenophobic post is simply perpetuating the incontestable racism in popular culture. 

For many, the deadliness of the coronavirus has been a reason to alienate Chinese people. A numerous amount of the racist jokes and comments are the direct result of ignorance. 

Here’s a reality check: the common flu poses a far greater threat to the American population than the coronavirus. Since the beginning of the 2019-2020 flu season, at least 19 million people caught the flu in the United States. At least 180,000 were hospitalized and 10,000 died, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The coronavirus, however, has affected only 72,436 and killed 1,868, according to CNN. Not to mention that a significant population of those affected by the disease are located in the birthplace of the virus, Wuhan, China. In Wuhan, healthcare officials are not properly trained in infection control measures and procedures. Often, they even fail to comply with the appropriate protection equipment for themselves, as according to the US National Library of Medicine. This offers reasoning as to why the virus has been spreading so rapidly in China. 

 Historically, the targeting of minority groups through generalized assumptions is not unusual. Blaming the entire Chinese population for the coronavirus is like blaming the entire gay population for AIDS. In fact, most Americans along with the American media targeted male gay people as the cause of the virus claiming they contracted AIDS through beastiality. This was not true. 

Similar to the AIDS crisis, rumors about where the coronavirus originated have circulated. According to the US National Library of Medicine the disease began in bats. Nevertheless, this does not mean that people chowed down on these infected animals. It still remains unclear how the virus reached humans. 

Gossip about Chinese people consuming bat soup prompted many to express their xenophobic disgust for Asian culture. Eurocentrism- a focus on European culture or history consequently excluding a wider view of the world- is the cause of this revulsion. 

In the United States cow, pig, chicken, lamb, or turkey is what’s for dinner. In some parts of China, dog meat is a popular dish. In Thailand people love to snack on grasshoppers or crickets. Many Americans are appalled by the prospect of eating insects or dogs. They hold the racist belief that the Western way of viewing animals is somehow “better” or more “humane” than other cultures. The idea that dogs are friends and cows are food is completely arbitrary. In the Indian Hindu religion cows are seen as sacred, even honored by festivals. 

As many Asian-Americans are receiving increased criticism, it is the American people’s responsibility to combat this racism by acting as allies to our peers. White Americans specifically may not relate to the struggles of living with brown skin but we can and should stand up against xenophobia. When you hear or see statements such as “F*** the Chinese” or “The Chinese really on some f*** s***,” say something. By speaking up this doesn’t mean harshly criticize or bully; everyone deserves compassion. In lieu of tormenting the person, ask them questions like “why did you say that?” or “what’s going on that provoked these feelings?” Say anything to call the person in so they reflect on their actions.

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