The Coronavirus: The Racialization of a Disease

Ever since December 2019, there has been rising fear of the Coronavirus, a disease that originated from Wuhan, China. This disease has been treated as if it were the plague, even though it is far less deadly, and the reason for that is racism. 

To look at this disease from a social perspective, we must go back in history and delve into the views of China and Chinese people through a Western perspective. There is no denying the fact that Western countries have been trying to control China for centuries, regarding the nation as a threat, a hazard, a sleeping dragon ready to wreak havoc on pure, innocent Westerners. Because of these prejudiced perceptions, stereotypes were developed in order to give America and other European countries a reason to take control of Chinese people, land, and resources. Chinese people were seen as dirty and diseased, a high-risk mass of people who needed to be contained at all costs. Sound familiar? 

These stereotypes may seem like they are just beginning with the Coronavirus outbreak, but they have been around far longer than you think. That’s why this new disease is so heavily racialized: it draws on historically anti-Chinese stereotypes that have been, and still are, utilized in order to keep the ‘threat’ of China at bay. With this virus, Westerners now have an excuse to be racist against Chinese people; their sinophobic agenda doesn’t have to be halted with accusations of racism because hey, they just don’t want to get sick! 

The fear of this disease escalated so rapidly solely because it is racialized. There were so many more cases and deaths caused by the flu in America this year and last year, but you don’t see people putting their hands over their mouths and turning the other direction when white people pass by. Statistically speaking, the Coronavirus is an extremely low-risk disease in America, as there have only been 35 confirmed cases as of February 21. 

The sinophobia following this disease is proving to be extremely harmful, beyond blatantly racist jokes against Asians. It was discovered recently that a Chinese man in Sydney, Australia died because bystanders were too afraid to give him CPR when he collapsed, as their racism made them believe they would be infected with the Coronavirus. This is clear, undeniable proof that the Coronavirus is not the only deadly component of this disease outbreak, as the ensuing racism has, and will continue, to kill. 

What also fuels this racism can be credited to Western propaganda. America has always been prejudiced towards China, and if you pay attention to Western media, you will be able to see how China is almost always painted as the villain. It’s evident in how there was even criticism when China announced that it was going to build a new 1000-bed hospital in just ten days to care for Coronavirus diseased patients. China has been actively trying to do everything it can to stop this virus outbreak while Western media twists the truth to cast a whole nation and its people as deplorable to promote its anti-Chinese indoctrination. If anyone should be criticizing a country, we should look at ourselves and our inability to give Flint the water it needs for six years and counting. 

Yet Americans continue to turn a blind eye at our own hypocrisy, instead choosing to laugh at racist jokes about Asians on Twitter. When Notre Dame burned, our entire country mourned. Billions of dollars were sent immediately. Social media was flooded with posts to raise awareness. Where’s the support for the Chinese people suffering from this disease now? If Americans really believed in the serious risk of this disease, how is making racist jokes an acceptable response? There were actual Chinese families grieving for the loss of loved ones during this past Lunar New Year, the most important festival of the entire year for Chinese people, and America’s flagrant, shameful racism is preventing people from showing remotely any support or sympathy. Suddenly our money and the concept of basic human empathy never exist when non-white lives are at stake. 

But hey, maybe we’re just waiting for a building to burn down to start caring. 


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