Is the Coronavirus the Real Culprit? The Story of a Racism Epidemic

Movies like director Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion embody one of our greatest fears as humans: widespread illness. Although it features a fictional plot, Contagion gives us insight into the mass hysteria and and uncontrollable terror that inevitably follows the spread of an illness that remains mysterious and incurable. 

Widespread epidemics frighten everyone, as there is so much that is unknown. However, there are other serious ramifications that can result from the spread of ambiguous illnesses. 

The recent outbreak of what now identify as “Coronavirus” began in Wuhan, China. The illness has since been declared a global health emergency by the CDC. 

There are doctors standing in the hallway of a hospital.

Despite the fact that there are currently only twelve confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people still have erupted into a frenzy over the illness. To put things in perspective, at least 19 million people in the United States have experienced influenza this season, according to an estimate by the CDC. About 180,000 people have been hospitalized so far and an estimated 10,000 have died from the illness. However, the greater population of the United States is still far more concerned about the threat of the Coronavirus, although it is clear that it poses far less of a threat than many other diseases.

From the exaggeration of the threat of the Coronavirus by the media, many other negative side effects have ensued. Ingrained in American’s fear of the illness lies something deeply embedded in our culture: racism.

Pills Spilling

The panic stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic has prompted racism to run rampant. As the disease began in China and most of those who have been affected are of Asian descent, people are pointing fingers left hand and right and making up ridiculous allegations. The bottom line is that blaming others distracts us from being afraid. 

It is not difficult to notice people crossing the street or moving away from others on the bus for no reason except harmful stereotypes. The Coronavirus has become so much more than an illness; it has awoken a beast that we cannot seem to shake. From the times of slavery until now, as humans, we resort to a state of xenophobia when the future seems unsteady and worrisome.

The Coronavirus and pandemics like it are certainly serious and should be of concern. However, what if the illness was really something serious, as shown in the movie Contagion? If every time we are afraid of something we point fingers to those who are different than us, we will never survive as humans. Also, it is simply ignorant to blame one particular group of people for any one disease. It was not long ago that people were pointing fingers at the gay community for the spread of HIV/AIDS. Is this how we want to treat our fellow humans?

Any disease is indisputably frightening. However, the problem arises when ethnocentrism is born in a womb of fear. We cannot let panic take over our rationality. We are all human with the same blood coursing through our veins and hearts beating onward; let’s not forget that.

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