Racism in the Time of the Coronavirus

John Lu

I want to start by saying that you don’t have to agree with me here. What needs to be said won’t be sugar coated. Some of you are ignorant and will continue to be.  

Recently, we’ve seen a lot in the news about a novel coronavirus. I’ve decided to write this because, over the last few days, I’ve noticed a spike in not only the frequency that racist comments and gestures are made, but the severity and extent to which they’re made as well. In the last week I’ve personally witnessed many East Asians treated differently. If you watch and listen in the halls and on the streets you’ll quickly notice the different treatment that Asians are experiencing. People of other ethnicities go out of their way to give Asians a wide berth not only on the streets but in our own halls at UCC and racist comments are thrown left and right without a second thought. Asian people step onto the subway and are greeted by people turning and moving away from them while Chinatown is avoided entirely by some.

I want to make something very clear for those of you who don’t seem to understand: racism is not socially acceptable. You are entitled to your own thoughts. However, you don’t need to share them. The portrayal and villainization of a group of people by various media does not provide you with an excuse for your racist actions. Your words can and often do have an impact on others. You could try to argue that your actions are not racist and they are precautious instead. If you look at that argument you’ll see how stupid it is. Just because we’re Asian doesn’t mean we have coronavirus. Just because you’re of another ethnicity doesn’t mean you won’t get it. Believe it or not, this virus doesn’t discriminate racially, unlike some of you.

Popular media is once again, as it often has in the past, taking things out of context. Short, poorly summarized versions of the true story of nCoV infections are being reported for the simplicity and ease of your minds. I, along with many members of the Asian community who are currently experiencing racial discrimination, implore you to do some actual research before you decide to spread rumours and speak half truths which villainize entire ethnicities. You’ll find that deaths occur primarily in people who are immunocompromised. Although the situation is severe, it does not justify racism. 

So next time you’re walking down the street and see someone of Asian descent, don’t give them a funny look. Don’t go out of your way and walk a circle around them. Treat them how you would treat anyone else because that’s who they are – a regular human being who might be personally impacted and going through something much harder than you are. Find the decency to not make jokes in public spaces about an epidemic that has claimed lives, fractured families, and been the root of pain and concern for so many people. 

Please also read my next article on tbaw.ca about what this strand of coronavirus really is and how to prevent it. Stop using 6ixbuzz as a news source. Educate yourselves.