We Need to Challenge Racist Misconceptions About the Coronavirus

Educating yourself about the virus can prevent harmful stereotyping

While the Coronavirus is circulating, it is important to be mindful of both your health and how you treat the people around you. (pngimg, modified by Kristen Frier)

Lately the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China has led to misinformation across the globe. As of writing this article, there are 27 confirmed cases in Canada and none of them were fatal. As written in a journal article published by the American Society of Microbiology Journals, “Coronaviruses first appeared in 2012.”

“The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has affected >25 countries, with >2,400 cases and an extremely high fatality rate of >30%. The commonly known symptoms are high fever, cough , cold and other respiratory problems such as shortness of breath. But in some cases, it might cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death,” it reads.

Being cautious is a good way to stay healthy. Just like the pilot of an airplane says, “Help yourself before others.” But sometimes, this way of thinking can lead to making unfair and inconsiderate decisions.

As the fear of this virus has spread internationally, panic has been leading many to express bias against Asian people. A CBC article published at the beginning of February describes the experiences of Asian Canadians living in Toronto who have faced discrimination linked to the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quoted in the article saying, “There is no place in our country for discrimination driven by fear or misinformation.”

During a long conversation with my roommate about the coronavirus, we both argued about whether it should be taken seriously as an everyday health risk or not. To me, the amount of concern about how the virus infects people is ridiculous. The strangest part of our conversation was when she told me to avoid bubble tea (which is hard for me to resist) and avoid Asian people. Instead, I figured the best way to avoid it was to wash my hands properly and wear a mask if I was sick — which is also a part of general hygiene. Nothing different there!

But the next day I had a class at the Richmond campus and my attitude changed. As I was waiting for my bus, I started freaking out about how I might be the next person to encounter this virus and thinking about the conversation I had the night before.

Perhaps I was too foolish at the time to look up the facts rather than believing in racist myths and hearsay. But it was not too late to realize that and address my behaviour.

The worst thing is that I am still surrounded by so many people who do not understand the reality of the coronavirus. KPU has been sending emails to spread awareness of the virus, including access to resources like the toll free number 8-1-1, which can be dialed in case of any health emergency. This has really helped me to understand the facts rather than relying on the people around me.

I think it’s time that Canadians really learn the facts about the coronavirus. That way, we can simply practice general hygiene rather than blaming a whole community or nation.

This can be done by standing three feet away from someone coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer. If you’re really concerned, wear a mask and seek medical help if you are sick.