Fear from Coronavirus causing exclusion

By: Jasper Griswold, Columnist 

“Kung flu.” “Winnie the flu.” “Sweet and sour sicken.” There are many jokes and memes about the Coronavirus, ranging from a statement that no one needs to worry about Coronavirus, as it is made in China and will soon break, to a man wondering why there’s only one plane coming to disinfect Wuhan before being whited out by a nuclear flash. These memes around the Coronavirus are plentiful, but problematic.

While some are just simple and funny, like one pointing out Coronavirus can be killed by alcohol and had the Corona beer logo attacking the Coronavirus, many are textbook examples of Sinophobia. Sinophobia is anti-Chinese sentiment, or racism against Chinese people. These memes may be funny to you, but they could be hurtful or offensive to your Chinese classmates.

These jokes have caused an uptick in racism against the Chinese, or perhaps just drawn more attention to it. People online are saying things such as “[the Chinese] make us sick with their shitty meals. I really want them in hell.” Calling Chinese people “disgusting” and wondering what’s wrong with them, complaining about them “eating animals like […] dogs.”

Even things as blatant as “Asian’s (sic) really need to learn to be humans! This is unacceptable to humans and animals!!.” People are commenting rude things about Chinese restaurants even in other countries. “No eating bats please!!” “They may have bat pieces in there or whatever else they eat.” Even simple jokes can lead to a cascade of hate and prejudice. In Vietnam, some restaurants put up signs declaring “No Chinese.” Petitions asking that Chinese nationals be banned from entering South Korea and Malaysia were signed by hundreds of thousands.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. There was a SARS outbreak in 2003 which killed 44 and left hundreds sick. It was known as the “Chinese disease,” racializing the disease and blaming it on migrants and foreigners. It strained and damaged the once pleasant and accepting multiculturalism in Toronto. This also happens with other diseases and other types of bigotry – there was blatant homophobia surrounding HIV. One of its first names was “gay-related immune deficiency” and to this day there is stigma around gay men and HIV. This type of bigotry is something that shouldn’t happen here, or anywhere.

Please remember that racism, xenophobia, and Sinophobia cannot prevent the spread of a virus. These are not a prevention measure, they are not akin to washing your hands. The Coronavirus may be infecting and killing many, but Roger Kiel, a professor at York University and researcher of infectious diseases and cities, says, “racism is a weapon of mass infection.” And it’s a disease I don’t want spreading through Towson University.

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