Ignorance Surrounding the Virus Has Been Dangerous to the Asian Community
By: Brittney Negron
The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has infected almost every country, leaving people around the world anticipating the worst. With a mortality rate of 2%, the virus is most dangerous for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
In comparison, the common flu is far more deadly. But what makes the coronavirus so concerning is how little is known about it.
Scientists are still struggling to formulate a vaccine, and treatment is limited. Originating in the city of Wuhan, China, the virus made headlines in late January and has since spread to at least 78 countries. The virus is scary, and it’s important to stay safe and prevent the spread of germs through proper handwashing and sanitization.
However, the most dangerous part of the virus is not the illness itself, but the hatred it has spread. Racist attacks and views on Asian people, also known as xenophobia, have increased worldwide so much that it’s reached an all-time high.
There have been numerous cases of assaults, both verbal and physical, against anyone that looks East Asian. Rosalind Chou, a sociology professor at Georgia State University, says that “With news of the coronavirus, we’ve seen an uptick in fear of people who look like this. Real people are affected.”
Just recently in Oxford, London, Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old man from Singapore, was assaulted by a group of three suspects who shouted, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.” He ended up with a bruised eye and broken bones in his face and learned from a doctor that he might need surgery. This is just one example of many coronavirus-related hate crimes that have occurred around the world.
And the effects aren’t only physical or verbal, but financial, as well. Chinese restaurants have seen a significant decline in business. For restaurant owner Rose Wu of New Shanghai Deluxe, located in Chinatown, there’s been a 70% to 80% loss of customers.
The coronavirus isn’t the first time we’ve seen an increase in xenophobia during times of widespread disease. The same thing happened to Chinese people during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and to African people during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. People were discriminated against- verbally, physically, and financially, all because of misconstrued assumptions and fear based on what they look like- and not who they really are.
The ignorance and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus is harming the Asian community and dividing the world in a time when unity is most important, and the only people that can stop it are ourselves. It’s important to be educated about the facts related to the illness.
The Center for Disease Control released an infographic on their website with the purpose of educating people about the disease and preventing the spread of false rumors. Fact 1 is “People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.”
Staying educated is not the only way to prevent the spread of ignorance. It’s also important to think before you speak and realize the effect your words and actions have on others.
What you may feel is a harmless joke might not be how someone else feels.
It’s also important that if you do witness a racist attack, you do something about it. While it may be risky, staying silent is far more dangerous.
Actions such as filming the incident or comforting the victim after the attack is over remind them they are not alone, all while standing up to the perpetrator and showing them their behavior is unacceptable.
Lucy Duncan, who conducts training on bystander intervention for the American Friends Service Committee, puts it perfectly- “The danger is if we don’t speak up for each other, the number of people being targeted is going to be expanding. If they don’t intervene, that kind of violence or that kind of incident becomes normalized.”
While fighting the spread of ignorance and hatred may be difficult, it’s not impossible. It starts with everyone, and it starts now.