An illustrated outline of a person wears a hospital mask with the word 'fear' sprawled across the face

Opinion columnist Savannah Glaves explains the downsides and circumstances surrounding the Lawrence novel coronavirus scare and xenophobia. 

Opinion

Last Tuesday, news of the novel coronavirus possibly being in Lawrence spread like wildfire. We all received an email from Watkins Health Services saying that a Douglas County resident had potentially been exposed and was exhibiting symptoms.

Students immediately went and bought masks and hand sanitizer in the hopes of being free from infection. Nobody wanted to catch the virus that has killed hundreds already. 

However, many Americans have also started openly exhibiting xenophobia and racism toward Asian people.

On the buses, some people would specifically move if an Asian person sat beside them. Others would specifically skip a class because their professor or teaching assistant was Asian, or, if they even saw an Asian person wearing a face mask — which happens to be a major part of cultures in Asia — proceed to avoid them at all costs. They may act like they just don’t want to get sick, but is this really the case?

As of Monday, there were only 20,438 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in China, with only 425 deaths. While this is higher than the total deaths from the SARS outbreak in China in 2002 and 2003, it is nowhere near the total number flu cases in just the United States. As of Monday, there have been 19 million people have been diagnosed with the flu this year and 10,000 people have died.

The amount of deaths and cases of the novel coronavirus compared to the total Chinese population, which is over 1.3 billion, seems minuscule in comparison to the flu and the total U.S. population, which is barely over 300 million.

Let alone that there has only been 11 confirmed cases in the United States. None of these cases so far have resulted in death. The United States also issued a travel advisory to China. Many commercial airlines have restricted people’s movement to and from China, making it even more difficult for people to contract the disease.

Yet, despite all of these statistics, people have raised panic and found ways to place blame on the Chinese people.

There was a rumor that the novel coronavirus started from people in Wuhan eating bat soup. There was a video posted online of a woman eating a cooked bat and saying that it tasted like chicken meat. However, it was later revealed that the video was from 2016 and not even filmed in China.

Due to misinformation, people criticized Chinese people for “inhumanely” eating animals that are not meant to be eaten, but who exactly decided that chickens, cows and pigs were the only animals that were meant to be eaten? Who decided that animals like bats and snakes were not meant to be eaten?

Was it Europeans, who, for many years, colonized the rest of the world and claimed that they were uncivilized and that they were the only “right” ones?

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has not only shown that people will follow anything the media says, it has allowed people to openly express xenophobia.

People are actively judging others on their looks and avoiding everyone who looks even remotely Chinese. They judge based on another culture that is different from their own, and want to oppress them based on disinformation.

As students of a highly inclusive university, we need to recognize that others are doing this. We need to put a stop to this so that no more people are hurt by our actions.

Think about it — would you want to be judged based on your looks and culture?

Savannah Glaves is a sophomore from Easton studying East Asian languages and cultures. 

—Edited by Brianna Wessling