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COVID19 and discrimination

On February 29, the governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, declared a state of emergency, with confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the rise. The virus, which started in Wuhan, China on December 1, 2019, has spread globally. 

Coronavirus is considered to be highly contagious and is spread from person to person through contact. However, as a disease that first surfaced in China, people of Asian origin have been attacked and blamed as initial carriers of the virus.

In London, the London Metropolitan Police arrested a group of people for assaulting a Singaporean student and calling him “coronavirus.” Jonathon Mok, the University College London student, spoke out about his assault and asked in a recent Facebook post, “Why should anyone, simply because of the colour of their skin, be subjected to abuse, in any form, verbal or physical? Why should I keep quiet when someone makes a racist remark towards me?”

Mok went on to say, “Racism is not stupidity – racism is hate. Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred – and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they’ve found yet another excuse.” Meanwhile, in Paris, France, a Japanese restaurant was vandalized with graffiti saying “coronavirus”

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increases as well as its deathtoll, authorities recommend avoiding physical contact with other people and washing your hands frequently. Unlike commonplace prejudiced beliefs, the coronavirus does not discriminate according to race. It is akin to any virus, and is therefore an equal opportunity contagion.

According to the CDC’s <Facts about COVID-19>, “Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity.” The government agency went on to say, “people of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American.” Finally, they encouraged people to “help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.” 

Discrimination over race is considered a crime, and can be reported by calling 911. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights is an alternative avenue to report discrimination. More information about reporting discrimination can be found on King County’s anti-stigma resources

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