Label Volunteer, Emily Jackson, discusses the connections between racism and the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The year has been filled with mass panic about health scares and we are only in the middle of February. The coronavirus was an illness associated with one country and is now considered a global crisis. A virus which has reportedly killed 2,118 as of the 20th of February in China alone is obviously incredibly daunting and scary to think about. However, the coronavirus seems to already have a racist stereotype attached to it and has become a token for racism and xenophobia across multiple platforms.
The coronavirus outbreak began in China with over 74,576 cases already recorded in mainland China alone. Since then, the virus has spread to other countries in Asia such as Japan and Thailand with a small number of some cases also recorded in Europe. A mass outbreak of 542 confirmed patients has emerged on a cruise ship that had docked at Yokohama, Japan. Understandably, this is quite frightening to look at on paper however, the World Health Organisation has not declared the virus as a pandemic. Surgical face masks are continuously selling out in shops; something which was mostly seen in Asia has now become a common accessory in Europe. Face masks are huge in countries like Japan and China, before the outbreak even happened. Unfortunately, racial abuse and stereotypes have been targeted towards many members of the East Asian community.
Social media has become a hive for racist remarks and comments regarding people from East Asia. Professional English football player, Dele Alli is just one of the people who have been called out for their racist actions. The controversy came about from a video Alli posted whilst he was in an airport lounge and he secretly filmed an Asian man whilst making comments about how he was possibly affected with the illness. Dele Alli has since apologised but the comments should not have even been made in the first place – let alone posting it onto a huge social media platform.
Particularly in the UK, East Asian students at the University of Southampton have stated there has been a rise in racial abuse since the outbreak of the virus, particularly targeting those who wear face masks. Posters have since gone up to make clear about the spike in racism which has occurred in the previous months but, little is been done about it.
From memes on Twitter to hate crimes, the coronavirus is no excuse to target the people of East Asia. We should be advocating against these stereotypes and hate crimes and understanding that many have been affected directly by the disease. The coronavirus is not a token for racism.