How the coronavirus outbreak is fuelling racism

How the coronavirus outbreak is fuelling racism

There’s a pandemic sweeping the world and no it’s not the new strain of the flu that’s causing severe cases of viral pneumonia across Asia and the US.

While coronavirus might be grabbing headlines, after infecting over 7,000 people and killing 170 of them (thus far), far more virulent is a strain of vile, anti-Chinese racism that seems to have infected thousands around the world.

The racist hysteria has had tragic consequences. On Thursday, a Chinese man collapsed and died of a heart attack in Chinatown, Sydney. Onlookers reportedly left him to die on the pavement and refused to give him CPR thanks to fears of catching the coronavirus.

So what's the truth about coronavirus? Well, it did reportedly originate in Wuhan, China. At the moment, scientists think it has a link to animals and many of those infected apparently worked or shopped in a large seafood market in Wuhan.

This supposition has filtered through to social media. But rather than simply treat it as information, many are taking the opportunity to make uneducated and racist assertions or jokes about Chinese people.

Like videos and images circulated by an anonymous Twitter user going by the handle @FreeMindHK.

One clip posted by the account showed an Asian man apparently eating live baby mice, was captioned: “Chinese “delicacy”, probably one of the causes for [the] emergence of #WuhanCoronavirus Source: telegram.”

But is absolutely no evidence to back up any of FreeMindUK’s claim. Chinese individuals, including ones who claimed to live in Wuhan, said they’d never heard of this so-called “delicacy”, let alone seen it offered in restaurants.

They also pointed out there was nothing at all to identify the man in the video as Chinese.

But that hasn’t stopped media outlets from reporting the video as legit.

Similarly, rumours have spread that a strain of coronavirus causing havoc originated in bats, which has led many on the internet to share photographs and videos purportedly of ‘bat soup’, declaring it to be a popular meal in China.

There’s been thousands of tweets decrying supposed Chinese eating habits and cracking gags about visiting Chinese restaurants, only to be served ‘bizarre’ dishes.

Not only are these posts incredibly ignorant regarding different cultural practices, as well as patronising, they’re also highlighting just how quick people are to believe anything that fits in with their prejudiced conception of China.

Because bats aren't even sold at the Wuhan market (scientists think there’s an intermediary transmitting the disease to humans) and, what's more, the viral ‘bat soup’ video doesn’t even come from China. It’s from an episode of a travel show, where the host visits Palau, a Pacific Island Nation, as James Palmer explained in a piece for Foreign Policy.

But that hasn’t stopped people from sharing misinformation and supporting racist ideas regarding the coronavirus’ spread.

It’s a sickness. But unlike coronavirus, they may not be a cure. All we can do is vaccinate people against sinking into racist tropes while discussing this pandemic, by calling out inaccurate information and fake news when we see it.

And for god’s sake, don’t start talking about ‘cruel dishes’ until we’ve got the ethics of our own meat industry under control.

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