Do Ebola jokes in the past justify coronavirus jokes now?

Asian students at ASU describe their experience after the Coronavirus outbreak.
Photo courtesy of Madeline Farber, Fox News

In recent weeks the globe has been struck by the coronavirus, a viral infection originated in Wuhan, China in a meat selling farmers market.

Since hyper media coverage of this virus has surfaced around the world the reaction from citizens has been harmful and ignorant to those of Asian descent.

It would be highly apparent to claim that as a species and society, history is constantly repeating itself as if conspiracies such as our lives being run in a simulation could possibly be true. A bold yet valid statement that correlates to the constant appearance of xenophobia whenever an epidemic arises in the world and media. Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreigners.

It occurred in 2014 with the outbreak of Ebola and persons of African descent and in 2003 when SARS another disease from China debut an outbreak.

Some may argue that due to the treatment of Africans or persons of African genealogy it is justifiable that those of Asian descent receive the same backlash and hate speech. However, xenophobia should never be justified.

UC Berkley recently received backlash for making a concerning post on an account powered by the Universities’ health and services department stating what “common reactions” should be expected upon the outbreak of the coronavirus. Out of these reactions, xenophobia was said to be one of them, the post read “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about these feelings,” According to CBS News.

There is nothing abnormal about being hyper-vigilant of one’s health especially in the wake of a rapid moving viral infection. However, this concern can and has been taken to extremes. The issue with UC Berkley’s post is that they’re normalizing anti-Asian/Chinese rhetoric, feelings and actions. In retrospect xenophobia as a whole is learned behavior, there is nothing natural or instinctual about it.

Dialogue such as that is what perpetuates reactions such as what happened to a young teen in Georgetown, Ontario. Two Chinese adolescents were approached by a group of peers during recess at school and they wanted to play a game – testing the young boys for the Coronavirus. They began to play but shortly became uncomfortable. Though the group of peers wouldn’t stop, according to TIME magazine.

In a world that justifies such behavior, you cannot blame the children for their ignorance and insensitivity. We can only blame ourselves for deeming it acceptable to shun and avoid those in the presence of such a social disaster.

In other parts around the world such as France, Asian’s have experienced such abuse on social media and in public that they started a hashtag #JENESUISPASUNVIRUS (I’m not a virus). Due to individuals’ fear and disgust at the sight of them.

Also, in France, a publication named Courrier Picard used the headlines “Alerte Jaune” (Yellow alert) and “Le péril Jaune?” (Yellow peril?) with the photo of an Asian woman wearing a mask. The publication later apologized for its stereotypical and harmful speech.

Citizens are seeing Asian civilians and assuming they are diseased because the outbreak began in China even though not every Asian person is from China. You could pass someone from Asia on the street and they could have never set foot on the continent. Though because of global reaction you may be subject to assuming the worst and spreading the unjust action of treating that individual with prejudice.

We learned it as children and as we age, we must constantly be reminded to treat others the way we would want to be treated. With respect or dignity, unless you have self-love/hate issues and you actually enjoy being targeted and humiliated in public.

The ebola jokes weren’t funny and neither is the Coronavirus jokes. People are dying and being hospitalized at an alarming rate and because it doesn’t hit home for everyone, they see fit to dissociate from reality by making such remarks. We’re desensitized to it and expect no better from humanity. Which is sad and not okay. Take the time to learn about the Coronavirus and educate yourself and while doing so remember to treat those who don’t look or act like you with the same level of respect you’d naturally want in return.