Coronavirus doesn't justify racist aggression

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The conversation around coronavirus is intimidating, but by standing in solidarity with Chinese students at Queen’s, we can combat the effects of the virus more effectively.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus, prejudice and bigotry toward Chinese students on campus has intensified. Last month’s coronavirus-themed party and the tearing-down of Chinese couplets in Victoria Hall are two events that specifically targeted Chinese members of our school community in the wake of the new virus’ outbreak.

I’m not of Asian descent, and I can’t fully understand the experience of being the target of racial discrimination, but I believe that people with privilege should use it to give a platform to the voices of others, especially when those voices are being demonized by unchecked fear and hatred. 

The way that the Chinese members of our Queen’s community have been treated is disheartening, to say the least. And Queen’s isn’t isolated in its bigotry. Last week, a student from Singapore was attacked in London, England out of fear that he would bring “his” coronavirus to the U.K., and an Asian-American man was sprayed with air freshener in New York.

These despicable actions not only harm the people suffering these racist attacks, but also inhibit the social unity we need to demonstrate to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On March 11, the World Health Organization held a press briefing emphasizing the importance of coordinating aggressive approaches to public health to give our hospitals more time to prepare for the virus. 

On a grassroots level, it’s important for us at Queen’s to protect the vulnerable members of these communities from COVID-19. This includes thoroughly washing hands, self-isolating when  symptoms appear, and monitoring individual health, especially after international travel. 

This requires compassion, and on relying on each other to facilitate wellness. If a classmate misses lecture because they feel unwell, send them notes. If a colleague blows their nose, offer them some hand sanitizer. If a classmate makes a prejudiced remark, correct them. Be an ally. Be intelligent. 

By treating Asian communities with the dignity they deserve, we can curb the panic surrounding the word “pandemic” and take practical action. 

If we check our social and political extremism, we can ensure that individuals feel comfortable enough to monitor and maintain their own health, protecting themselves and the larger communities they’re part of.

As the Queen’s community, we can’t singlehandedly curb the dangerous racialized perceptions borne from coronavirus, but we have the ability to challenge the xenophobic behaviour we see here on campus.

If you’re unwilling to condemn the racist behaviour exhibited on campus, then you’re part of the problem.

Ellen is one of The Journal’s assistant news editors. She’s a fifth-year English and History student.

 

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