Coronavirus: Not An Excuse for Discrimination

As most people are well aware, a virus called 2019NCOV has hit the news in the last few months as it started to spread. People have died, and more have fallen ill, especially in mainland China. It is estimated, according to various sources, that the total number of people infected is approximately 75,000 people. Many, many more people have been affected by the coronavirus in other ways.

Families have been separated by quarantine, loved ones have gone weeks without seeing their family and friends or their home. Students have been unable to continue school. Businesses have suffered, putting extra financial strain on families. Health professionals looking after the sick are not able to go home to their families. Quarantine has led to masses of people sitting and waiting, worried for their loved ones and their neighbors. At the very least, bored out of their minds as they wait. Not knowing what their immediate future looks like, or when their lives can regain some normalcy. 

Demonized by Western culture as having ‘deserved’ the spread of coronavirus for eating wildlife or different animals. Ostracized on American campuses due to their race, or assumed association with China or the virus. Discriminated against for wearing a facemask on public transportation.

If it has not been said before, let me say it here: the coronavirus is not an excuse for discrimination. It is not an excuse for racism. It is not an excuse for xenophobia. It is not an excuse for assuming someone’s race, nationality, or recent travel activities. It is not an excuse to ostracize, demonize, or exclude Chinese students on this campus, or anywhere. 

If you believe that this is not a problem here, on UW Madison’s campus, you are mistaken. If you see discrimination of any sort, stand up or report it. As a part of this community, we should be advocates for all of those in this community. Check your own bias, conscious or unconscious, and use your privilege to go beyond being a bystander in situations of discrimination, xenophobia, and racism.

Particularly at this time, when fear of the coronavirus perpetuates harmful stereotypes, ideologies, and prejudices — particularly against international students from Asia and Asian-American students — check yourself and others around you. Do not use the plight of other humans as an excuse, and do not stand for others who do. There are no excuses for discrimination, xenophobia and racism. 

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, but a part of a much bigger conversation on xenophobia and discrimination. I urge you all to recognize how global news and events can cause a ‘media scare’ and how this affects your subconscious thoughts and feelings towards other people, cultures, places, and more. If you follow this magazine, you are probably an avid traveller or at least wish to be. I urge you to strive to understand how current events and media shape your understandings, especially as you move about the world, but also at home. Here, at UW-Madison. We must engage in this bigger conversation, not just when a course of events demands outrage and advocacy, but all the time — every second of every day.

For international students affected in any way by the coronavirus, please see the ISS website about current information on the virus as well as immigration, financial, and support services: https://iss.wisc.edu/message-on-coronavirus-2019ncov/ 

To report an incident of discrimination, hate, or bias or to learn more: https://doso.students.wisc.edu/bias-or-hate-reporting/ 

To read more about the coronavirus and stay tuned to updates, you can view CNN’s updates via the following link: https://www.cnn.com/asia/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-02-19-20-intl-hnk/index.html

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