Racism and myths dominated coronavirus coverage

Americans should remember that the flu is a more destructive disease than the current corona strain.

Last week, University of Tulsa Vice Provost for Global Engagement sent out an email alerting campus that in light of the level 3 travel advisory that the United States Department of State issued, TU would be restricting travel to China and affected countries. Similar emails were sent out in educational institutions across America, informing students of the nationally declared “pandemic.” However, most of them failed to describe what exactly coronavirus is, what the symptoms are and how to avoid it other than travel restrictions. This lack of information has led to unneccesary hysteria as well as incidences of racial discrimination toward individuals from Asian countries. The irony of this reaction to the presence of coronavirus in the United States is that the flu is actually more rampant and deadly than the coronavirus.

According to USA Today, as of Feb. 5 there were a confirmed total of 24,604 cases of coronavirus, 494 of which resulted in death. On Feb. 4, the Center for Disease Control reported that the 2019-2020 flu season had brought about 15 million cases, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths in the United States alone. The CDC has also consistently reported over the last several years that fewer than half of all Americans get a flu vaccination.

It didn’t occur to me that racial discrimination would be fueled on college campuses because of this outbreak. A dear friend of mine who attends the University of Washington in Seattle informed me that she had to have a serious conversation with her Resident Assistance staff on how to correct misconceptions, keep students safe, and prevent bullying and racial targeting. Students took to social media, resorting to long-held racial stereotypes and posting hateful comments: “All of the kids in my math class are Asians. I sure hope I don’t get coronavirus.” A California university told its campus that xenophobia toward Asian classmates was a completely normal reaction. This sparked mass controversy on the internet.

The Los Angeles times described how these heightened racist sentiments have made individuals “hyper aware of their East Asian roots.” I find it infuriating that in the 21st century there continues to be such a plethora of faulty information, media perpetuated prejudices and just blatant acts of racism on a systemic level. This particularly confounds me when comparing the response to coronavirus with that of health issues and diseases that plague the American population on a daily basis; many of which can be easily combated and prevented altogether. There needs to be a drastic change in the way information is obtained, verified and dispersed to the general public. While this won’t erase the racial stereotypes that are imbedded within the American way of life, it will certainly help to alleviate discrimination and false panic and will hopefully move our society toward becoming a more accepting, loving and compassionate one.

Post Author: Tori Gellman