Racism Spreads Faster

Than the Coronavirus

By BADE ORDU | March 11, 2020

Cover photo: A shortage in face masks is a side effect of the coronavirus. 

Macau Photo Agency / Unsplash


Since January 2020, the name “corona” has changed from a Mexican beer brand to a vigorous disease in people’s minds. The new zoonotic virus originating from Wuhan, China has spread to nearly every country in the world. Though this is not the first global pandemic of the 21st century, it might be the first to have xenophobia as a side effect. In every aspect, Chinese people, and generally East Asians, are facing an increasingly hostile attitude from ‘frightened’ people. Stock values of Chinese brands are declining and many Asian restaurants around the world are reporting fewer and fewer customers.

Digging deeper reveals that the relationship between hatred towards foreigners and widespread diseases has existed throughout human history. The well-known author Steven Taylor points out xenophobia in one of his books called “Psychology of Pandemics”:

“Heading back as far as we know, it’s partly because human beings are tribalistic in nature — we’re socialized to evolve in small groups. And because most of the important infectious diseases that wiped out groups of people were brought in by foreigners, if you think about Europeans settling in the Americas [they] brought influenza and smallpox, which wiped out the indigenous people. So, we as humans, to some extent, have built-in xenophobia.”

In the US and in Europe, minority groups have always been living under pressure. This is sadly not new; from the time when Syphilis was named a “black” disease to today’s prejudice against Asians due to the coronavirus. Indubitably, people are free to think whatever they want; until their thoughts turn into negative and harmful actions.

A week ago, an Asian friend of mine posted an Instagram story about how he was afraid and had to cancel his long-awaited trip to a city where an Asian guy was violently assaulted by a racist group of young people shouting “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country”. I feel disheartened and ashamed due to the “us vs. them” mindset that dominates the current climate. Even centuries later, seeing these terrible attitudes not changing got me thinking of “how”, “why” and “what can be done”. 

Ken Cheng (@kenchengcomedy) on Twitter said: Less than 0.001% of Chinese people have coronavirus, yet more than 99.999% have already experienced coronaracism.” 

What we can do is stand by the human rights of all groups facing discrimination and help them stand tall. This virus will eventually pass, like a lot of others. The most important thing that needs to stop right now is racism.

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