New Age Racism during COVID-19

Japanese encephalitis, Spanish flu, West Nile virus, and the ‘Chinese Virus’. It has been a common practice for diseases to be eponymously named according to where it originated from. However, this practice was more or less restricted due to the increased sensitivity towards the particular groups being subjected to ostracization as a result of being from the same place as the disease originated from.

This practice of new age racism is no different from the olden days of racist practices. It still follows the same ‘semantic’ structure of a rather unsettling aspect linked to a particular group of people based on their ethnicity thereby creating an overgeneralized feeling of resentment towards that group. The sole reason for racism has been ignorance and it still continues to be the leading cause.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has been a prime example of such evolved racism. However, it is hardly the only example. There have been instances of pre-meditated violence against particular races due to various reasons ranging from false speculations about immigrants and people fearing their job safety to primitive reasons such as unwarranted biases towards particular religions in even the most developed countries such as Italy[1], Germany[2], South Africa[3], France[4] etc. Racism has unfortunately permeated through the ages to seep into the present.

Now, coming to the present scenario which has only exacerbated the bleak situation is the violence against various groups due to the ignorance of people being succored by the pandemic. It needs no explanation or justification because the news headlines make a lucid enough portrayal of the general idiocy among the masses. “Anti-Asian racist rallies against any Asian in America”, “Violence against North-Easterners in India”, “Lessons suspended for every Asian in Italy”, “A Korean woman called ‘Coronavirus’ repeatedly in Belgium”, “A South-Korean girl asked to leave her dormitory in Australia by her school” etc. These are all real news headlines. This is one of the most horrific absurdities I have ever encountered.

People are treating Asians (who mind this, might very well not be Chinese) as if they are producing the virus from their ancestral origin inside their bodies. It raises serious doubts not only about the ignorance among people but the quality of education they received because I remember studying about ‘carriers of diseases and its transmission’ back when I was 12 years old. And honestly, there seems a serious lack of people below 12 years of age in these racist rallies and instances. They all are literate people ranging from politicians to students to even teachers which makes this fact seem even more disheartening.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed at the international level among other issues such as violence against doctors and nurses, people protesting against quarantine, etc.

The kind of issues that are cropping up makes even the remotely sane to question where we stand as a community. Have we already started moving backward before even reaching the peak of development?

This piece would remain unjustly incomplete if I only lay down the issues without my own advice regarding the redressal of the same, would not want to come off as a narcissist.

What I believe should be done is the age-old remedy to any instance of ignorance, i.e., spreading awareness. One of the major culprits here would be the various news portals presenting their own skewed perspectives of reality. News portals have to stop labelling issues and linking them with races or ethnicity. Schools and universities need to have special sessions every now and then to discuss such social issues so that at least the coming generations learn from the mistakes of their precedents. The government of countries with such instances should take it upon themselves to address it on the national front so that people see their representatives taking a stance against it and further the affected minority would feel safer and respected as well. Social Media campaigns and basic grass root level awareness if done with sincere and genuine efforts can definitely bring out the much-needed difference.

So, while it is surely demoralizing to see racism even after centuries of efforts to curb the same, it only gives humanity a challenge to face and overcome. All we have to do is our part and see the ripples of change across the earth. Here is to ending on a positive note in the words of Margaret Mead “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” 

[1] (Visited on May 3rd 2020; I.S.T. 15:25).

[2] (Visited on May 3rd 2020; I.S.T. 15:40).

[3] (Visited on May 3rd 2020; I.S.T. 17:37).

[4] (Visited on May 4th 2020; I.S.T. 00:13). 

Prakarsh K from National Law Institute University, Bhopal

He is a 2nd year student and has active interest in the sphere of cyber law and intellectual property rights in the international sphere.

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