• Reethi Roy

The Pandemic of Covid-19 Racism

Discrimination is not a new concept and has existed for centuries. As the coronavirus spreads across the world – hate speech, discrimination, and xenophobia have surged in prevalence. People of African and Asian descent have suffered at the hands of racial slurs, violence, vandalism, and even eviction from their own homes due to the social injustices that have occurred during the pandemic. Covid-19 should have united us all for common cause but has instead resulted in the infliction of blame and the pointing of fingers.

(Sophia, 2020).

The virus has sparked Islamophobia in India, as trolls took to twitter to express their hatred. One individual posted a false video showing a Muslim man part of the Delhi congregation, allegedly coughing intentionally on someone in order to spread the Coronavirus. The tweet’s caption referred to Muslims as “such vile minded people”. In another tweet, a cartoon was posted showing a Muslim man, labelled “Corona jihad”, pushing a Hindu man off a cliff. In an article by Time magazine, Executive Director, Thenmozhi Soundarajan said, “Corona jihad is this new idea that Muslims are weaponizing the Coronavirus to target Hindus.” The concept of ‘jihad’ has taken on a variety of different contexts. For example, ‘population jihad’, the idea that Muslims want to reproduce at a faster rate than Hindus so that majority of the population becomes Muslim. ‘Love jihad’ is another idea that assumes Muslim men are attempting to form romantic relationships with Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.

According to an article from ABC News, an Australian-Asian family’s house was vandalised with the words, “Covid-19 China Die.” The family’s house was vandalised two nights in a row. The perpetrators even went as far as throwing a rock at the family’s window to express their hate. In another incident, a Hong Kong student studying at the University of Hobart, in Australia, was assaulted for wearing a face mask. The student was visiting his local supermarket when the words: “You’ve got the virus go back to your country!” were shouted at him. He was punched in the face near his car, shattering the car’s window and injuring his eye. In a report by the World University Rankings, Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean UCL student in London was spat at, and given a black eye that left him with a broken bone between his eyes. He was so brutally attacked that he may require facial surgery. A University of Glasgow student had the words, “Coronavirus!” shouted at him and his clothes were subsequently ripped off.

In addition, racism has also manifested in the country of origin. In China, Africans have become targets of racism. After two Nigerian nationals tested positive for the virus, the government ordered that all African nationals be subjected to testing for the virus and are to undergo a 14-day quarantine without even receiving the results of their tests. Even those who had not left the country were still subjected to forceful testing. Many have faced forced eviction from their homes, leaving them helpless and stranded on the streets. According to the BBC, a Nigerian student studying at the University of Guangdong in China, was forced to vacate his place of residence only to find that the police were waiting for him and his roommates outside. African ambassadors in Beijing demanded, “…the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, stated that, “African friends can count on getting fair, just, cordial and friendly reception in China.” However, he did not make any mention of the ambassador’s demands or what was going to be done to put an end to racism in the country.

In times like these, people in positions of power are needed to drive forward effective change for the world at large. The government needs to take necessary action to put an end to discrimination and hatred against its citizens. However, the world’s governments have proved inadequate in their ability to stop xenophobia, discrimination, and racism against their citizens. In the United States, for example, President Donald Trump labelled Covid-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ only further reinforcing stereotypical ideals and xenophobic actions against Asians in America and abroad.

Without any support from the government, citizens are forced to take matters into their own hands. In the United Kingdom, angered citizens have collectively formed an anti-racism group called CARG (Covid-19 Anti-Racism Group). The group has started a petition in an effort to draw the government’s attention to racism against Asians in the country, in light of Jonathan Mok’s violent attack. In Australia, a #UnityOverFear during Covid19 petition was created to encourage citizens to unite against racism against Australian-Asians. The petition aims to achieve 150 000 signatures and will be sent to all the members of the Australian parliament, the opposition leader, and the prime minister. In an interview with Aljazeera, Princess Hend Al-Qassimi, a member of the UAE royal family stated, “Openly racist and discriminatory (Indians of the Gulf) will be fined and made to leave (the country).” This has been put into action, as six Hindus have been fired from their jobs and subsequently charged for discriminatory posts on social media.

The fight against discrimination, racism, hate speech, and xenophobia is far from over, but it is important that we stand together in solidarity to fight against these. It is important that we pressurise our governments to pay heed to these issues, so that they may bring about change. We need to learn to not judge or blame one another, but to support and uplift each other. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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