Don’t@Me: You’re Not Protecting Yourself, You’re Just Racist

Coronavirus is Becoming an Excuse for Blatant Xenophobia

Graphic Joey Bruce

The Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been making headlines recently, sparking fear and panic around the world.

In addition to the rapid spread of infections across China, where it originated, the virus has been identified in Canada and has seemingly affected the way Montrealers and some Concordia students interact with and perceive Asians.

My boyfriend, a Montreal-born Korean-Canadian who studies at Concordia, recently experienced his first bout of outright racism as a result of the Coronavirus pandemonium.

On the metro, heading home from a late class, a woman approached him and told him to “go back to China.”

Nobody spoke up in response to the woman, and nobody reached out to offer him any words of consolation.

He’s expressed his previous experiences with racism to me in the past, as a child on the playground and as a teen in high school, being addressed by immature Asian racial slurs.

But, feeling like an outcast in his own hometown was a different, hurtful feeling.

My concern is that, if he experienced this, many others might too.

Access to the internet grants us information in the blink of an eye, but with that, comes misinformation.

On Facebook, I’ve seen racist comments due to misleading and fear-mongering headlines, as well as well-edited videos of people falling down in the street—both claiming this virus will claim millions of lives, including yours if precautions aren’t taken.

N-95 masks are selling quickly off the shelves of Pharmaprix, on Amazon and on Alibaba, despite the low threat of infection in Canada.

On Twitter, videos are being uploaded of people claiming to be sick after eating Chinese food and cursing out Asian people for “spreading” the virus.

Avoiding an entire race and panicking will do nothing but divide us further—at a time where we need to be united as Canadians.

Having been with my boyfriend for over four years, this is the first time he’s ever expressed feeling like an outsider, like he doesn’t belong in his own country, his own home.

As a result of the Coronavirus hysteria, Asians are being seen as outsiders, branded as Chinese by default, regardless of what country they actually come from.

Chances are, they might be as Canadian as yourself.

Above all else, they are human and worthy of respect and consideration.

There isn’t much we can do about misinformation on the internet, the cruel and heartless comments on social media, or the xenophobic memes that spread like wildfire.

But, there is one thing we can do, a skill many of us learn in university.

I would ask you to think critically, be empathetic, and have a mind of your own.

If you see somebody being mistreated, speak up and show kindness to the person affected.

Seek out facts from trusted news sources and organizations that are working around the clock to mitigate the problem.

If you read an article on a blog-type website with words that are carefully chosen to clickbait, think twice about what’s presented, and what ideas it’s trying to invoke.

Be kind to your fellow students and people.

Don’t treat others like they don’t belong, they have every right to exist in that space and be respected—just like you.