Opinion | The Coronavirus is not a justification for racism

Illustration by Brian Cummings

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

We’ve all heard about the severe and life-threatening coronavirus running rampant in China, and now around the world. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness is a “new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.” While the virus originated in China, it has spread to the remainder of southeast Asian, and even to the United States. The coronavirus is an extremely dangerous disease. However, your fear is not a valid reason to utilize the virus as a discriminatory vessel against Asian people. 

Although the news is flooded with talk of the coronavirus, many are still allowing social media and rumors to influence their thoughts on the outbreak. I recently stumbled across a video on Twitter of two Asian people sitting on a train. Across them sat a group of people covering their faces. The Asian people were not coughing, sneezing nor exhibiting any symptoms of any illness, let alone the coronavirus. I was completely appalled. If people actually knew what the virus consisted of and how it was transmitted, they would have no validation to cover their faces around an Asian person. 

This is the exact same disgusting and discriminatory behavior we saw when Ebola was spreading. White folks started avoiding interacting with black people, despite the CDC saying the disease spread from person to person, regardless of race. 

The video of the people on a train highlighted how misinformation can cause an abundance of disarray and racism. It disgusts me how people can be so hateful and venomous when an outbreak is happening. Then, I realized that distasteful behavior is inherently present in every one of those people. They just needed a reason to let it out. I’m lost as to why I even need to say this, but obviously some of you missed the lesson on kindness and respect in first grade, so let me reiterate: The coronavirus is not a gateway for you to be openly racist and hateful against Asian people.

The reality of the virus — like almost every virus, disease and illness — is that it is not bound to any one race. Much is still unknown about the virus, but the CDC and other international health organizations are working to uncover as much about it as they can. As of right now, the CDC is aware that the virus can be spread similarly to influenza: via person-to-person contact when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

I’m not a doctor, but I’d like to enlighten you all on the true symptoms of the coronavirus, as cited by the CDC. The virus has been reported to have little-to-no symptoms in some cases, while other patients aren’t so lucky. 

Some symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

It is also important to note that the CDC believes that the virus can appear between two and 14 days after exposure.

Meanwhile, the CDC has provided the American public with recommendations on what to do in order to stay healthy. Unsurprisingly, disrespecting and harassing Asian people is not one of them.

During this chaotic and frightful time, we need to be helping one another — not turning on each other. I’m sorry to all those prejudiced and hateful people, but it’s not really the time for your revolting behavior. It never is. If Europeans once managed to survive the bubonic plague, we can certainly survive the coronavirus.

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