Viral Xenophobia

Another and equally deadly side effect of the coronavirus that is taking over the world


March 12, 2020

/ By / Kolkata

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(picture credit: Business Insider)

As the world grapples with the new virus, there’s a less talked about the side effect of coronavirus which is xenophobia

The coronavirus has been dominating global headlines for the past few months, causing worldwide panic and mass hysteria. Stores around the globe have run out of protective face masks in stock and Corona beer sales have declined, given the association to the coronavirus name. The travel industry continues to be devastated by the virus as many businesses and travellers have growing concerns over flying. Saudi Arabia has suspended travel to one of the holiest sites in the religion, Mecca, because of health concerns.  Apple warns that there may be iPhone shortages due to the virus and U.S. stocks continue to plummet, mimicking 2008 lows. Companies are taking the necessary precautions to ensure their employees are safe by encouraging employees to work remotely.

The World Health Organisation has termed COVID-19 a worldwide health emergency. Consumers in some countries like South Korea and Japan have raided grocery stores as some supplies become limited and gas prices have plummeted. As the pandemic continues to spread, people are taking the measures they deem necessary to keep themselves safe.

The frenzy that the coronavirus has caused has unsurprisingly sparked more xenophobia and racism. A CNN report featured multiple stories from people of Asian descent who have been attacked or the victim of a physical or verbal assault in the last few weeks. The racism that many people of Asian descent are currently experiencing is strangely reminiscent of the U.S. in the 1800s after The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed.

Late January on,  Le Courier Picard a French newspaper’s front page big block letters announced “Yellow Alert” next to an image of a Chinese woman wearing a face mask. The headlines drew immediate outrage. Readers accused the paper of using offensive and ignorant language. Yellow Peril was an old racist slang targeting Asians in Western countries. The phrase embodies the worst of anti-Asian fears and stereotypes, which have plagued immigrant communities since the first waves of Chinese immigration to the United States began in the 19th century. In the backdrop of Coronavirus, as misinformation spreads, the potential threat of racism towards Asians has grown. The head of Toronto Public Health in Canada also warned that misinformation about the virus had created an unnecessary stigma against members of our community.

The panic has also taken another, more familiar form, with the re-emergence of old racist tropes that portray Asians,   their customs and their food, as unsafe and unwelcome. However, this time around anti-Chinese racism is spreading beyond the West. In Vietnam, signs have been seen outside restaurants declaring “No Chinese.” Similar signs were seen in Japan as well. More than 126,000 people have signed a petition in Singapore calling for a ban on Chinese nationals from their country. Perhaps the most widespread form of xenophobia comes in fear-mongering, sensationalist stereotypes about Chinese food.

Recently in India cases of coronavirus have been confirmed but since the outbreak of the news, there has been news on racism against not only people from China but also the North East. The northeast student’s forum at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai have condemned the racial discrimination against students from the states in an open letter to the institute and the rest of the student body. The letter mentioned that many students recently have faced racial discrimination and name-calling such as corona or coronavirus.

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