I couldn’t believe the social media comments I woke up to this morning.
“Chinese people deserve the virus because they eat cats and dogs.”
“Finally, let’s throw a bomb and get rid of these chinks for good.”
It took me a good while to process that these are real peoples’ real reactions to an epidemic that is killing hundreds of people and separating families in my home country.
While memes about coronavirus are everywhere on Twitter and so many people are tagging each other and joking about catching the “Chinese flu”, I am calling each person in my family and my friends back home to ask if they’re okay and if they have access to food and masks because everything is out of stock. I am worrying about whether I will even be able to go home this summer because airlines suspended flights to China.
This is bullshit.
Why can’t people empathize with the Chinese people’s struggle against a virus when they can empathize with wildfires and turtles? Why is there no donation campaign from other countries when campaigns were instantly set up after people found out that koalas were dying in Australia?
Honestly, I’m not surprised by how biased western media is. China has been portrayed as the evil communist country that censors Google and puts religious people in jail since day one. Western media only reports when police in Hong Kong are using tear gas against civilians but never mentions a word about how “democracy” protesters are setting trains on fire. And now that a virus has popped up, of course they’ll create conspiracy theories about mainland China’s plan to spread a disease across the world and specifically ruin the United States.
However, I am surprised by how xenophobic and ignorant people are. Many are still using the 2016 video of a Chinese blogger eating bat soup in Palau as evidence to argue that Chinese people are “disgusting.” But in reality, the video was shot 4 years ago on a Pacific island nearly 3,000 miles away from Wuhan – and bat soup is a local delicacy there. Some of my friends living in European countries have been stared at or asked to leave for simply wearing masks in public spaces, when it has been a cultural phenomenon for the Chinese to wear masks outside to prevent catching a disease, especially after dealing with air pollution.
I want more people providing support on social media instead of joking and making fun of Coronavirus. I want more people to acknowledge the fact that China built a thousand-bed hospital in ten days while being extremely under-resourced instead of simply condemning the Chinese government for not doing a good enough job at preventing the spread of the virus. I want more voices comforting those who lost families and friends instead of making “No-Chinese-Welcomed” signs in front of their houses and stores. I want schools to check in on their Chinese students instead of suspecting that their students are all virus carriers.
I don’t expect the media to change its dominant narrative. But I do hope that people outside China can learn to be more understanding. For those of us who are from China, it is difficult to be constantly worried about our families back home, and to be constantly concerned that we will never be able to go home without risking the ability to return to the US for college. One day, maybe people would stop thinking about Chinese people as the evil communists who are trying to steal their democracy and freedom and, instead, just think of us as equal humans.
Editor's Note: The views presented in this story belong to the writer are not necessarily reflective of North by Northwestern as a whole.
Article Thumbnail: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH) [Public domain]