Coronavirus won’t end humanity; racism, hysteria will

Illustration by Nyomi Fox

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My symptoms checked out. Fever, body aches, chills, sore throat, coughing, all signs of coronavirus. Confined to my bed, I contemplated my inevitable demise. How would I go? Maybe my 103.5 degree temperature would take me in my sleep. Or perhaps I’d spend my last seconds hacking and convulsing in the pale claustrophobia of a hospital sick ward. The coronavirus had devoured Wuhan, and would soon devour me. I prepared for the inevitable. I rewatched my favorite movie, reread my favorite book, cursed Xi Xinping and his CCP shills; I even penned my will.

How could this have happened? The only infected American was thousands of miles away in Seattle, and I hadn’t had any contact with anyone from China.

It was the flu.

As my health improved, thousands were infected with coronavirus. As I regained my sanity, people around the world lost their minds. Mass hysteria appears to be conquering a large part of the global population. The coronavirus has torn down the popsicle-stick foundation of our societal order. In Wuhan, a man was arrested for viciously beating a doctor after the death of his father-in-law. Videos have surfaced of patients spitting on elevator buttons and coughing in doctors’ faces. The Chinese government placed Wuhan, China’s seventh most populous city, under quarantine on Jan. 23, suspending all public transportation shortly after. The cultural heart of Central China, an epicenter of vibrant culture, is now a shriveled up skeleton of a town.

And for the approximately five million who made it out of the city, it’s not much better. Wuhanese have been turned away from hotels and restaurants in other parts of China. They’re effectively stateless within the borders of their own country.

Internationally, the Wuhanese are the undesired face of China. As the virus sweeps across the world, the racists have come out in droves. There’s been a deluge of sinophobia over the past few weeks\; Conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter tweeted their support for the imposition of a travel ban on all Chinese passengers\; Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed a cartoon depicting China’s flag, with the stars replaced by the coronavirus symbol\; a restaurant in downtown Seoul put up a sign with the words “No Chinese Allowed” emblazoned in big, blood-red letters\; the stereotype of the Chinese as some vile, neolithic proto-culture with barbaric cravings for bushmeat has blackened hundreds of thousands of minds worldwide.

The delirium is similar to that which poisoned the world during the West African Ebola epidemic when irrational suspicions of Africans reigned supreme and Africa was portrayed as a hellish and primitive wasteland\; the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when Islamophobia skyrocketed worldwide, as uber “patriots” assaulted and brutalized several innocent Muslims and Sikhs—anyone brown, really—across the United States and China began implementing their horrific Uyghur detention camps\; the events following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, when Japanese-Americans were stripped of their possessions, rights and identities, forced into detainment camps.

All it takes is a simple catalyst, like the outbreak of some virus, a coordinated terrorist attack or a global war, and we sound society’s death knell. Sure, all are awful. But are they really enough to justify the mass hysteria and mushrooming hatred?

We’ll go to school, do our homework, attend college, join the rat race, live normal lives, all under the false pretense of order and security. We place too much blind faith in a shallow and decrepit social order, one that has failed us over and over and over again.

Our extreme reactions to events like the coronavirus outbreak puzzle me. In America alone the flu infects millions of people per year, while the death toll is in the thousands. Why don’t we initiate mass quarantines and travel bans to contain the flu? Why don’t we point fingers and vilify different populations for spreading it?

We’re ignorant about the perils of our everyday lives. So, at the slightest hint of crisis, a blind fear eclipses our compassion and logic—virtues which should shine through the fog of racism and hysteria during the most trying of times. We must reject the self-induced pandemonium and conflict, instead persevering with the virtues that define humanity.

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