I remember asking my dad to go out for food one day. When he refused, I asked him why. I didn’t expect him to say anything related to the issue of coronavirus. He told me earlier that day he went out for gas and groceries. He said many stared at him with an unnerving speculation, and that one woman even pulled out a mask.
In Sydney, Australia, a 60-year-old Chinese man was left to die as a result of the onlookers’ refusal to perform CPR out fear that he had coronavirus, simply because he was Chinese.
I first heard about the deadly coronavirus from my friend. Back then, the outbreak was just starting and there were no cases in the United States yet. I wasn’t necessarily scared or thought it would be something I’d worry about. A few weeks following that day, I began checking on the numbers of deaths, people infected, and where the cases were. There were drone clips I saw of Wuhan, where streets once crowded with pedestrians were emptied for the fear of catching the coronavirus.
There is no doubt that this new disease caused a great fear among people everywhere. There are about 76,000 cases in 32 countries and territories. Its death toll topped Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), as the number of fatalities exceeded 2,100 globally, with 27 known cases in the U.S., including at least eight in California.
The coronavirus is undoubtedly spreading quickly, but so is the racism and xenophobia that spreads along with it. Across the internet, many commenters claim or imply the disease is the result of “unclean” Chinese eating habits. Though this stereotype has always been around, it seems to awaken with more force because of the disease.
As the epidemic spreads, Asians of all backgrounds are reporting how they are being treated with suspicion.
The outbreak of this new epidemic is already terrifying, but the racism that spiked as a response is even more alarming. It broke my heart when my dad refused to go outside because of the xenophobic people he had to face, and when the man from Sydney died because he was refused CPR because of the coronavirus scare.
Coronavirus is new, but racism and xenophobia are not. The virus will go away in the course of time, but racism is potentially more lethal and harder to contain.