Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Coronavirus has now become a global reality. To the unversed, the disease which has now spread like wildfire, was first discovered in China. Owing to its origins, people all across the world have come to associate the disease with Asians and have increased racism against them indiscriminately.
Such an association can be attributed to rebranding of the virus as the Wuhan or the Chinese virus by right wing media which came amid concerns over the political impact of COVID-19 on President Trump in the wake 2020 elections. Trump Administration’s slow initial response to the virus was widely criticised and the blame game between China and the U.S. over the origins of the virus provide substantial grounds for the linking of the virus with China.
Thomas Levenson provides historical evidence that suggests how linking an infectious disease and a geographical location has been used to stigmatize and dehumanise people of a particular racial and ethnic identity. He also emphasised that by giving weightage to place against clinical details is a blatant ignoration of scientific understanding in the interest of narrow political interests.
And the novel coronavirus becomes another example in what appears to be an endless chain of evidences reiterating the point stated above. The Chinese- American community has come forward with reports of Anti-Asian bigotry. The attacks vary from social alienation and property vandalism to downright assaults.
Asians from all over the world, particularly those with Mongolian features, have reported cases of racism and use of racial slurs. In England, a group of south-east Asian students were pelted with eggs and were verbally abuse. In Bolivia, Japanese tourists were quarantined despite having no relevant travel history or symptoms. In India, the north-eastern citizens were targeted where a Manipuri girl was spat on by a man who called her “corona”. Political activist Angellica Aribam was subjected to social media harassment as well.
In times when community solidarity is the only weapon at our disposal in what can be anticipated as a long battle against COVID-19, such racial scapegoating can only be seen as giving the epidemic a head start.