Combating discrimination from COVID-19 | Teen Ink

Combating discrimination from COVID-19

February 4, 2021
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Times have never been so trying and troubling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted hundreds of millions of people socially and economically, and poses a real, grave challenge to our community. Alongside the postponing of events and closing of schools, we have also seen heightened prejudice, xenophobia, and racism around the world, especially towards those of Chinese or East Asian descent, Muslims, Jews and LGBTQ; protests and riots to end racial inequality are raging internationally with the killing of George Floyd, and humankind seems more divisive than ever at this current crisis. From such events, we can see that xenophobia and racism are still very real and modern problems, distressing people every day, to this day.
With this piece on Teen Ink, I thought I’d take a close look at the recent incidents of, and potential reasons for discrimination, and explore some solutions we could strive to achieve.

“Go back to your country.”


The spectre of Sinophobia in the social fabric has resurrected not just in Western nations but throughout the world. The outbreak of the virus, which started in Wuhan, China, led to a surge in racism towards the Chinese and Asians in the form of verbal attacks and physical violence. This return of the Yellow Peril even went as far as resulting in places being vandalised, or people being spat at and getting denied housing, employment, healthcare, or education. US President Donald Trump was notably criticised for stubbornly stoking xenophobic rhetoric by referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu”.
As the virus spread across other nations, hate spread with it – and discrimination wasn’t just limited to Asians. Soon after, people from Italy (one of the first European countries to experience a major outbreak) were also susceptible to suspicion. Muslims were increasingly discriminated against in India, and so were ethnic minorities in Paris. In Arab states, South Asians were blamed for the spread of COVID; in Seoul, the LGBTQ community were blamed.
By then, China was also pointing fingers back, particularly at its African community in Guangzhou, forcibly evicting black residents from their houses. Some people described non-natives as “foreign garbage” that should be “disposed of”.
It was lamentable and worrying to see such abuse and assaults in such a time when cooperation and support were more than necessary. Hate speech and unfair treatment against people based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation cannot be justified, especially in the case of a global crisis. So why did discrimination reach this rate?

“I am not a virus.”

The illogical and irrational decisions that were made, and are still happening today, can be associated with a lack of knowledge about the nature of COVID-19, and a desire to criticise someone due to one’s fear of disease or death. Misinformation, rumours and gossip seem to spread faster than the rate of the virus itself, and are also factors that sparked deeply-seeded discrimination. It is important that we realise that, although challenging, negative stigma should be restrained. Such social stigma hurts everyone by diverting the focus on ordinary people, rather than the disease itself. Infected people could hide symptoms in fear of such discrimination, which can make it even more difficult to contain the virus.

We must stand together.
Evidently, in times of crisis, we must all stand together. As international citizens, we should correct and speak out against negative language and behaviour, and show the world how to respect differences, as negative sentiment is most certainly unhelpful for meaningful progress and the resolution of such an issue. It is also important to share accurate information and be grateful for what we have. The short and simple solution, is to refrain from impulsive discrimination, and negative attitudes and beliefs. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, and as long as people exist, there will be no panacea to this problem; however, by trying, we push ourselves in the right direction, which can make all the difference.
In fact, while discrimination, stigmatisation, and hatred are still prevalent, on a positive note, people are beginning to come together. Homeless people and those with disabilities are being provided food and medical help by neighbours; we have also seen a global phenomenon of emergency responders and healthcare providers (doctors, medical workers, nurses) being respected and thanked for their service at the frontline, alongside grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, etc. Of course, there has still been selfishness and issues of supply shortages from bulk panic buying, but it is still fair to say that human spirit and values have resurrected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and cooperation is still possible.

 It is all up to us.
If everyone chooses the easier selfish alternative, the situation will only be prolonged. The world is at a test. Countries need each other, and we must cooperate and minimise the conflict, despite such efforts being strenuous and burdensome. Arduous endeavours will have to be made to deliver this lofty ideal, and the trust deficit in humankind needs to be addressed urgently. Hopefully, we can come to see that we are all one human race, and fight this challenge posed ahead of us in solidarity.
More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can only master it if we face it together.
-Kofi Annan, 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations

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