Over the past week, the outbreak of the Coronavirus has attracted global mass media attention.
Coronavirus is a term to describe a broad family of viruses that target the respiratory systems. Previously, only six of these viruses were known to infect humans, however, this new form now makes it seven. Other branches of this virus include the common flu and pneumonia.
The virus which appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December of last year, have currently claimed the lives of over 300 people. Globally, there are already more than 14,300 confirmed cases, and experts anticipate the numbers to continue rise.
As the Coronavirus spreads and media coverage increases, people fear it will spark both racist and xenophobic attitudes. Some media coverage has generated global panic, and this panic has created the opportunity for the re-emergence of old racist tropes that portray Asians, their food, and their customs as unsafe and unwelcome. For example, on a French newspaper's front page last weekend, big block letters announced "Yellow Alert" next to an image of a Chinese woman wearing a face mask. Another headline in the same paper read "New Yellow Peril?".
Undoubtedly, these phrases embody the worst of anti-Asian ideologies and stereotypes. Although, the newspaper apologised quickly and said they had no intention of perpetuating "racist stereotypes of Asians.”, the damage is not so easily undone.
On a personal level, many of my Asian friends have already encountered racists and xenophobic slurs since the Coronavirus outbreak came to public attention. Consequently, as an British-Asian female, I have been made to feel uncomfortable in this sphere of public opinion.
Although, I have not directly encountered these racist or xenophobic remarks in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak, I anticipate them coming my way. This week, I was on the tube and sneezed. The lady opposite me gave the most disconcerting look. While Coronavirus may not even have crossed her mind, a seed has been sewn at the back of my mind in being self-conscious of how others see me. Call me over self-conscious, but by nature I am not. As a British citizen, I should not be made to feel I am a diseased and infectious individual; Coronavirus should be no excuse for racism.
But, if you are going to hesitate from sitting next to me on the tube, just remember… more room for me.
Broadcasted exclusively worldwide on W!ZARD Radio Station.
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