Swine flu. Ebola. MERS. All global health scares, mucking up mounds of panic in countries all over the world. What’s more, all are examples of disease which have caused many to display xenophobic sentiment toward infected populations. It’s no secret that the new “coronavirus,” a viral infection originating from mainland China, is creating similar global sentiments of impending doom. Just last week the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency, with it being reported in 23 countries outside of China.
But fear of doom is no excuse for discrimination and prejudice.
Fear over the disease is no excuse for racism, no matter the origin of the epidemic. The Chinese have historically been characterized as a population which breeds more virulent diseases than the rest of the world and this is not okay.
The practice of demonizing a people, however, is not just restricted to those of Chinese and Asian descent.
After the Ebola outbreak in 2014, many were shunned for visiting Africa — or worse, being born in Africa. After some U.S. cases of Ebola were first reported, many African immigrants experienced discriminatory behavior from peers in their communities.
The result of fear is often to ward oneself from the infected; but we must remember that the people who have become infected are still people.
Similarly, sensitivity must also be extended to national travel regulations.
On Feb. 5, a chartered plane carrying 178 American evacuees from the region in China where the virus originated, arrived at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, located only 40 miles away from Los Medanos College. None of the evacuees have been diagnosed with the virus as of yet, though a child on-board is said to have a fever.
We do not believe that fear of a disease warrants racial prejudice or xenophobia to any degree. The outbreak of the newest epidemic in China is no exception. If we witness this kind of behavior, we have to react, to tell people it’s not right. We cannot just sit by any allow others to be racist or use this sickness as an excuse.