Keeping up with the Coronavirus: The Rise in Racism and Xenophobia

You would’ve thought that in the 21st century there would be less reports of racially charged attacks, discrimination and other kinds of vial abuse based on race. And prior to this pandemic, yes, you could have argued that xenophobia was on the decline and, on the whole, steps were being made towards a more equal society.

But there’s nothing like a global health crisis to expose the grave criminal injustices that those of ethnic minorities face all too often. With the sharp rise in extreme violent attacks towards people of Asian looking ethnicity, a student from Singapore became the subject of a brutal battering in Oxford Street in February, one of the attacker’s shouting ‘I don’t want your coronavirus in my country’.

“The attacker’s friend tried to swing a kick at me as I was explaining to the passer-by that I hadn’t done anything at all.”

In a time like the present, one could have only hoped that people would be drawn together in unity. However, history repeats itself, with times of trouble always seeming to reveal concealed prejudice across the globe.

If the racially charged abuse towards Chinese people hadn’t already been at its height by mid February, when it was widely acknowledged that Coronavirus originated in Wuhan by the consumption of bats, President Trump (as usual) added fuel to the fire. ‘China virus’, ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘Wuhan virus’ were all names used by Mr Trump in numerous statements made, via press conference and, of course, twitter, regarding the coronavirus pandemic. In one of Trump’s many twitter rants he tweeted: ‘’The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!’’

This rise in xenophobia has not, however, been limited solely to physical attacks. There has also been recent a rise in online racism. This has most often been centred around the premise of eating bats; implying that eating bats, as a non-westernised food choice, is inherently wrong. But this is not the issue at hand. The fact is that pandemics have been caused by eating all sorts of animals, western or not. Ebola originated from primates, Swine Flu from pigs and Bird Flu from chickens. To focus primarily on the fact that the virus originated from bats as a way of blaming cultural differences in food choice, reveals an ugly ignorance in non-westernised cultures.

Out of all the horrific racial abuse stories I have come across regarding coronavirus, the report I found the most worrying was an opinion poll from YouGov. On April 22nd, YouGov conducted an opinion poll asking ‘’Has the coronavirus outbreak impacted your view on China as a country, or not?’’, with 51% answering ‘Yes, negatively’ it is clear that some of the xenophobia we thought had been eradicated by 2020 is simply running perniciously in an underlying fashion.

Words by Alice Lilley

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