Please Don't Use Coronavirus as an Excuse to Lean Into Racism

Illustration for article titled Please Don't Use Coronavirus as an Excuse to Lean Into Racism
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It seems like it might be common sense, but recent rumblings have made it clear that a gentle PSA is due: Please do not allow for casual or overt racism in light of the recent outbreak of coronavirus.


Global pandemics are abjectly terrifying, but especially so with coronavirus, a fast-spreading flu-like virus that originated in Wuhan, China. According to recent reports, there are over 8,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and the death toll hovers around 170 people. Wuhan, the city in mainland China where the virus originated, is essentially on lockdown; citizens are venturing out in face masks for food and supplies and little else. The spread of the disease itself is concerning because it is manifesting in people who have not spent time in Wuhan and also, like airborne viruses do, it is spreading rapidly. This is certainly cause for concern, but it is not necessarily cause for the kind of panic that has been burbling up and threatening to explode.

People handle difficulty in varying ways, but I have found that in times of quiet personal crisis, the easiest way to assure myself that it probably isn’t as bad as it seems is to turn to those who know more than I do. In the case of any stray fear that I will expire on a cot in a sick ward, full to the brim of coronavirus, I take solace in the wise words of former White House health advisor Ezekiel Emmanuel, who served under the Obama administration. “Everyone in America should take a very big breath, slow down and stop panicking and being hysterical,” he said to CNBC. “We are having a little too much histrionics on this.”

Consider the antics of the American Conservative, a noxious website whose sole intent seems to be sowing widespread, xenophobic panic about anything and everything. An article that I refuse to link to for my own mental sanity has referred to the coronavirus as “kung flu” which is racist, but also, lazy? Conservative op-ed writers across this great nation are certainly seizing upon this opportunity to rifle thru their bag of racist insults and come up with xenophobic quips, but I urge them all to be slightly more creative in their endeavors.

For the rest of us, who are certainly fearful of contracting a disease that may or may not be the thing that wipes out humanity, get a fucking flu shot. Vaccinate your children. Do not clutch your bags to your chest and make a show of walking away from the woman on the train wearing a face mask and minding her own business. If you live in a major metropolitan city that plays host to tourists, you will see East Asian people wearing face masks even when it is NOT flu season—a habit and a necessity in cities where the air quality is terrible but being outside is an unfortunate requirement of everyday life. Maybe the mask is a fashion statement. Maybe the mask is what they have always done. One certainly doesn’t know for sure, but to assume that every East Asian person is a carrier of coronavirus and will infect you by simply existing in your vicinity is racist, and also, stupid.

Assume the best, but not the worst, of your fellow humans, even if they end up disappointing you. Live your fucking life!

Senior Writer, Jezebel