ART BY JOSEPH MENDOZA
There is a new virus sweeping across the world.
This virus, dubbed, 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) is a newly discovered strain of coronavirus that originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Allegedly linked to China’s large animal and seafood market, the virus has primarily spread through person-to-person contact.
The outbreak has already cost the lives of at least 81 people in China so far, with more than 2700 confirmed cases worldwide.
Because of the virus’ pneumonia-like symptoms, a fear has ignited among the general public, provoking the question: Who is to blame? Undoubtedly, the question has exposed an underrepresented yet deep-seated issue in western society: racism against Asians. Because of its conception in China, the presence of the coronavirus in the U.S has catalyzed numerous sinophobic–the prejudice against Chinese people–tropes, in particular, concluding every Chinese person has the ailment.
Among numerous think pieces on the coronavirus, blatant racism take form through misinformation spread throughout media platforms, particularly Facebook. The persistent sinophobia does not only extend to Chinese individuals, but to those who can be ethnicised as Chinese–in other words, racism against Asians.
Adding on, posts on the internet are never reliable considering a great number of posts on social media are fake or are misleading. Circulating across Facebook, one particular post claims “Corna’s disease” is “starting to spread in the greater Sydney region,” and warns of “contaminated products.” The post then lists a random collection of popular Asian foods supposedly made in “neighboring areas” to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the current virus originated, and are claimed to contain “traces of corona’s disease.” These foods include wagyu beef, Yakult, Nongshim Onion Ring snacks, Mi Goreng instant noodles and many more.
What’s more bizarre is that the “bureau of diseasology parramatta” lists a couple of Western Sydney suburbs that include large populations of people who are of Chinese birth or descent, are “areas which people with corona’s disease have visited and contaminated,” proven by “positive readings” in the air near train stations. The Sydney suburb of Parramatta is not home to a “Bureau of Diseasology,” however, as it does not exist.
Essentially, the fear of the coronavirus has been used as a tool to ostracize Asian individuals. Funnily enough, while there are only five confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. the narrative set is that all Asians have the virus. Accounts from Asian-Americans and Eurasians detail the microaggressions they encounter daily.
Anti-Asian racism has been reported in the United Kingdom and abroad, and now French Asians have complained of abuse on public transport and social media. As the hashtag spread, one woman, Cathy Tran, described to the BBC that she heard two men on her way to work in the eastern town of Colmar say; “Watch out, a Chinese girl is coming our way.”
Tran did not know what to do and no one decided to stand up for her and stop this. Many people do not think before they say something and never believes that they might hurt someone with something they have said. Additionally, many people who make these kind of rude comments have never stepped inside the shoes of those people who have.
Another incident was Shana Cheng, a 17-year-old Parisian of Vietnamese and Cambodian origin, told the BBC that she had faced humiliating comments on a bus in the city on Sunday from both young and old. “There’s a Chinese woman, she is going to contaminate us, she needs to go home,” she heard one passenger say. People looked at her “in a disgusted way, as if I was the virus,” No-one stood up for her, so she decided to ignore the comments and listen to her music.
As a result, French Asians have taken to social media to complain of a backlash against them in response to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, Asians who live in France have been using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus, which translates into “I’m not a virus.”
While a cause for concern, the coronavirus is not an excuse to ostracize Asian people. Like all viruses, it is imperative to maintain proper hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed that one must wash his or her hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Moreover, the posts advises that one avoids contact with his or her face with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Even though people believe that wearing a face mask can prevent the virus, one of the simplest prevention measures a person can take is proper hand-washing. In conclusion, it is wrong to believe that every Asian person possesses coronavirus because it initially began in China. But to block it from infecting your body, it is essential to stay sanitized and stay away from sick people. We can only hope that people would not assume before acquiring any genuine information about something.