Worldwide, Asian people are facing increased discrimination, as many blame China for the coronavirus outbreak. Globally, we’re seeing spikes in prejudice, xenophobia, discrimination, violence and racism against Chinese people, and people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent and appearance. In the U.S., by referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus”, President Trump has only made matters worse. Closer to home, in South Africa, before our schools closed due to the pandemic, staff at one of the private schools instructed learners not to discriminate against the Chinese learners because of corona, after it was found that some younger learners were doing this.
This backlash against Asians could hamper efforts to contain the coronavirus, says expert Natalia Molina, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at University of Southern California. Her research looks at the intersection of disease and race. In her view, this behaviour is a double-edged sword: not only is it racist, but it also perpetuates unfounded information.
“The idea that this disease is mapped onto certain countries, and not others, is one key way in which we are going to hinder our ways of containing this disease,” said Molina in an ABC News telephone interview.
She stressed that COVID-19 will continue spreading if people don’t make the effort to properly understand it.
“We’re still more worried about someone looking Asian coughing into their shirt” than about understanding best practices to stop it spreading, says Molina.
UN human rights guardian Michelle Bachelet has urged the world to fight virus-spawned discrimination against people of ethnic Asian origin. “The coronavirus epidemic has set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity. I call on member states to do their utmost to combat this and other forms of discrimination,” she told the Human Rights Council in Geneva recently.
When our children fight, and we step in to break them up, inevitably one of them says: “But s/he started it!” And as adults, we tell them: “It doesn’t matter who started it. It’s time that we stop it.” The same goes for the corona pandemic. Yes, it may have started in China, but pointing fingers, stigmatising and discriminating won’t help us end this. Let’s focus on working together to beat this! #beatcoronatogether