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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Anti-Chinese sentiment spreads faster than coronavirus


Reynolds' Roundtable GraphicWhat do AIDS, ebola and the novel coronavirus all have in common? All have been accompanied by some sort of prejudice toward a group of people.

For AIDS, it was the LGBTQ+ community. For ebola, it was black people and people from Africa. And now, for the coronavirus, it’s Chinese people.

The novel coronavirus is a recent outbreak stemming from Wuhan, China. Patient Zero was reported on Dec. 31, 2019, according to the World Health Organization. It is called the “novel coronavirus” because it is a strain of the coronavirus that has not previously been identified. Originally known as 2019-nCov, and now known as SARS-CoV-2, the abbreviated name for this strain is COVID-19; it is one of seven strains that has the ability to infect humans. 

Four of the strains are very common, three are not so common. The three not often seen are SARS-CoV (SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS-CoV (MERS, or Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19, the coronavirus disease the world is currently experiencing). These three are viruses that originated in animals and evolved and adapted to be able to infect humans.

The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations have been working seemingly non-stop to research the new coronavirus disease and where it originated. Through study of COVID-19’s genetic tree, they have found that it originated in bats; they are unsure if the disease adapted straight from bats to humans or if there were animals that it adapted to in between.

Currently (on Feb. 19, 2020 at 3:58 p.m.), COVID-19’s death toll is 2,014. It has infected 75,309 people. Over 15,000 people who have been infected have completely recovered. Outside of China the number of cases has broken 1,000. 

Symptoms of COVID-19, especially at the beginning of infection, are very similar to symptoms of the common cold. Fever, cough, congestion, that sort of thing. People infected have reported mild to severe symptoms. Those who are immuno-compromised (infants, the elderly, those with previous illnesses that may cause a compromised immune system) are more prone to severe cases of COVID-19.

And, as often happens with disease, a negative stigma, a plague all its own, has followed COVID-19. China has experienced backlash and prejudice for something out of their control; now, Chinese people, regardless of if they have been to China recently or not, have become subject to this hate and prejudice.

The hashtag #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan was trending on Twitter the week of Feb. 13. Businesses in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and South Korea have posted signs refusing service to Chinese people.

Schools and universities have taken to quarantining students returning from China. Colby College, a school in Maine, put students showing no symptoms of COVID-19 in isolation after they returned from China. The school said that it was following guidelines, but the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement saying that the students who were quarantined posed no risk to public health. The CDC also said that it never ordered Colby College to quarantine the students.

Princeton University also had to consider quarantining returning students, among other universities.

A newspaper in France, Le Courrier Picard, gave articles controversial headlines such as “Alerte jaune,” meaning “Yellow alert,” and “Le péril jaune?,” meaning “Yellow peril?.” Le Courrier Picard didn’t stop with the headlines; accompanying the headlines were pictures of Chinese people wearing masks.

When the WHO released a travel advisory for China, it only increased prejudice and added fuel to the xenophobic fire. People began relating danger to China and any people who looked as though they might be from the country. 

Perhaps this is why people who aren’t from China are experiencing the same prejudice. Vietnamese, Japanese and others of Asian backgrounds have reported the same xenophobia the Chinese have. People make poor, distasteful and racist assumptions and treat all who appear to be Asian with contempt.

People are taking their fear of a disease, their fear of death, and finding some twisted reason to embody it in Chinese culture. They have given physical form to their fear, and it has resulted in anti-Chinese sentiment. It has empowered hatred.

This racism is utterly gross and unacceptable. These are people we should be helping, lending our shoulder to should they need one to lead on. They are people, human beings, with feelings and thoughts and hopes and dreams. They are undergoing mass amounts of needless scrutiny. Asian-Americans shouldn’t have to feel afraid or nervous to walk down the street in a country they have lived in for years, many of them for their entire lives. 

If you’re going to let your fear empower anything, let it be yourself. Let it empower your desire to stand up for the good in the world, for the people who need you.

Let’s start a new hashtag.


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