by Pritha Nag
As we enter 2021, we are greeted with a new Covid-19 strain. The now infamous virus has taken the entire world by storm, putting most of us in lockdown since March. The virus originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, China from where it spread worldwide. For many Asians, however, it wasn’t just a matter of trying to stay safe, they faced several xenophobic remarks about the “Chinese Virus”. Discrimination and xenophobia have always existed along with double standards, and a global health crisis and pandemics aren’t an exception. It seemed that with the rise in the virus there was also a rise in the xenophobia and double standards.
Many Asians were at the receiving end of xenophobic and hateful remarks when just leaving their houses. It went as far as the White House Officials calling the virus the “Kung Flu”. Furthermore on June 20, 2020, during a rally in Tulsa, Trump said—
“It’s a disease that without question [that]has more names than any disease in history. I can name Kung Flu, I can name nineteen different versions.”
A reference and clever play on words to the Chinese Martial Art Kung Fu. According to an Ipsos survey done in late April, it had said that more than 30% of Americans had seen someone blaming Asians for the virus. Using terms such as “Kung Flu” or “Chinese Virus” alienates a minority, and distracts all from the real problem at hand.
These xenophobic and discrimnatory remarks weren’t just done in the United States. Many other countries, with thousands and millions of Covid-19 cases, have reported acts of racism. The United States with their own president using discriminatory phrases, and with many hate crimes against Asians. Many of the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and Germany political parties have also gone along with xenophobic consipracty theories. Places including Africa, the Middle East, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, India and Sri Lanka have also spotted scape goating asians, such as hate crimes, violence, racist remarks and more.
When Donald Trump was confronted about the White House’s xenophobia it he said– “No, not at all,” Trump said. “I think they’d probably agree with it 100%. It comes from China. There’s nothing not to agree on.” Trump went on to say he didn’t think that his comments shouldn’t affect Asians since there was nothing to argue about it, it came from China, so we can call it the “Chinese Virus”.
Coming back to the new Covid-19 strain, or also known as B.1.1.7 was founded in the UK in late 2020. This new strain is said to be more deadly and spread much faster. Already, more than 29 people in India have already had this virus (as of 6/1/21). The new strain is more transmittable, rapidly replacing other versions of the virus. The mutations of the virus are more probable to affect important parts of the virus.
With Covid-19 many Asians faced discrimination, but why is it that no one is calling the new variant the “British Virus”? The new variant has occurred in the UK, is more deadly, more rapidly spreading but no-one seems to be blaming the British. No one is blaming the UK for being the originating place for the mutation, and spreading it to over 30 countries (as of 6/1/21). It is clear that countries and groups of people should not face discrimination or hate due to the virus originating in their country, but why did we see hate toward Asians but not toward the British? Why is no one coming up with clever puns about the new strain? Why is the finger not pointed at them?
All pandemics are considered natural hazards according to the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Therefore the current pandemic is as much of a natural disaster as a tsunami and hurricanes. But what we can contain is how we decide to prevent the disease from spreading, not by pointing the finger at a certain nationality/country.
Maybe it isn’t a matter of where the virus originated but discrimination and xenophobia, because if you’re going to blame one nationality for a virus, why aren’t you blaming another for an even more deadly mutation of that same virus? We’ve seen that discriminating, scapegoating, double standards and alienating occurs everywhere all around the world, but we need to focus on the real problem here! Covid-19 doesn’t care who we are and where we live, it comes for everyone! So, maybe the real question here is– is it a matter of where the virus originated or discrimination and xenophobia?