Are viruses racists, too?

By Aftab Hussain
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 25, 2020
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A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves is seen on a subway train in New York, the United States, March 17, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The world was outraged at President Donald Trump for referring to COVID-19 as "Chinese virus" during a press conference on March 19; meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's son Eduardo Bolsonaro surfaced in the media and started blaming China for the global outbreak. When President Trump was asked whether he considers the label to be racist, he said: "It's not racist at all, it comes from China, that's why." On the other hand, Eduardo Bolsonaro's criticism of China has a political dimension.

The COVID-19 has wreaked havoc around the globe. The number of people infected with the virus and the number of deaths are mounting. We, as sane human beings, need to ask the question: Is it time to play the blame game and be political, or is it time to join hands and defeat the virus?

It is not appropriate for the president of a country whose 1.6% population is Chinese-American to say such things without thinking about how those words will be interpreted. There are nearly 4 million Chinese Americans in the U.S.; social consequences of such statements can be lethal.

Earlier in February, the Wall Street Journal also published a commentary piece, "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia," which annoyed people all around the globe. Similarly, in the early days of the outbreak, a flag of China with the coronavirus was published by a Danish newspaper. The newspaper even refused to apologize for labeling China and hurting the feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese people. 

It is common sense to understand that the outbreak of any epidemic is noticeable when part of the damage has already been done. The Chinese people have sacrificed their lives and gave a warning to the world that the COVID-19 outbreak should be taken seriously. China is helping other countries through aid, despite being severely affected by the outbreak. In such a scenario, the leaders of the world need to stand taller and show sympathy instead of being political or playing the blame game.

Viruses are not racist. They do not differentiate based on the social, political, or economic status of a person and has no borders. 

Such events remind us that we, as humans, are just another species on earth. The COVID-19 has taken many lives, and if we continue to play politics and blame each other instead of collectively fighting against the disease, we may lose many more lives than we can imagine. The COVID-19 is a global catastrophe. We need to stand together and refrain from labeling each other. 

This is another lesson for us, as humans, that health and human life is more important than anything. When all of this is over, and scientists have developed a vaccine or a cure for the disease, countries will straighten up their priorities. They will spend more on improving the quality of human lives instead of focusing on destroying their rivals. 

This outbreak has exposed vulnerabilities in the health system in nations, including the U.S. We are not ready to face such an outbreak. What if there is another pandemic waiting to surface and engulf the world once more? Nations need to hunker down and think about the right thing to do now and in the years to come.

Aftab Hussain is a PhD research scholar at East China Normal University, Shanghai.

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