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Racism and xenophobia – new pandemic which came along coronavirus

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Racism and xenophobia - new pandemic which came along coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, there emerged several reports highlighting the increasing instances of racism and xenophobia all across the world. Early in March, in the US hundreds of Asian-Americans filed reports of having faced racist remarks, being yelled at, spit on, physically attacked and even death threats. Many documented their accounts on social media. On March 6, BBC reported a story on Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old from Singapore, who was attacked while walking down Oxford Street in central London on February 24. Mok said that he was approached by a group of four men who told him “we don’t want your coronavirus in our country” as they baldy punched his face. As a consequence of the attack, he believed that he would need an operation on a broken bone near his right eye.

COVID-19 pandemic brought along another pandemic of hate and violence, which is far more dangerous and lasting.

Since the contagion originated in Wuhan in China, many East Asian communities have been targeted and accused of spreading the virus. It even gave rise to one of the conspiracy theory which accuses China of deliberately developing the virus and spreading it across the world for economic gains. Such racist tendencies gain weightage when propagated by world leaders. In his recent press briefing, US President Donald Trump referred to the Covid-19 as ‘Chinese coronavirus’.

It is not only the Asians who faced the brunt of racist and xenophobic acts. Thailand’s Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul was criticized for his discriminatory remark on Western tourists, saying that they are “dirty” and more likely to spread coronavirus than Asians.

Charnvirakul in two Twitter posts, which were later deleted, held farangs – a slang for Caucasians – for spreading the virus, saying that they “never shower” and pose health risks to the Thai population.

Pandemics fan fear and fear builds anxiety and frustration and perpetual need to look for a scapegoat. It is a historic trend, which was witnessed even in 1853, when the yellow-fever epidemic emerged in the United States, European immigrants, were stigmatized for having lower immunity and eventually spreading the disease. During the SARS outbreak, which originated in China, East Asians faced the music. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Africans were blamed.

Miri Song, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, told TIME that the current situation was on par with the aftermath of the 9/11 attack which gave birth to racial hysteria against browns. It led to an increase in attacks against Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh people based on their ethnicity and racial identity. She added that during the time of crisis, people are targeted or discriminated against based on different stereotypes.

World Health Organisation strictly prohibited the nations from associating the virus to a particular community or geographical location. To prevent hate crimes from becoming another pandemic, WHO announced an official name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19 — making sure that no reference was made to Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus originated. COVID-19 stands for Corona Virus Disease 19
To beat the ongoing crisis the world leaders need to stand together in solidarity rather than take a polarised route.

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