Prejudice will not contain the coronavirus

Cases of 2019-nCoV reveal worldwide xenophobic truths

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The novel coronavirus has the ability to spread within proximity of six feet. This transmission occurs through respiratory droplets, commonly known as a cough or sneezes.

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The coronavirus — now recognized as the COVID-19 — has made a drastic impact on those who are contaminated. 

However, all across the world, people who are not contaminated by the virus appear to face their own contamination — a prejudiced mentality against Asian communities.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China on Dec. 31, 2019.

With its most recognized form, the novel coronavirus has the opportunity to spread within proximity of six feet. This transmission occurs through respiratory droplets, commonly known as coughs or sneezes, according to the CDCP.

According to an email sent from the Eau Claire Department of Risk Management and Safety, there is an estimate of 165 students from China who will study on campus during the spring semester of 2020. 

“Thirteen students from China will be taking classes as enrolled students at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County in Rice Lake,” according to the email. “University officials have been and will continue to be in communication with any students we know will be traveling to our campuses from China for the spring semester.”

It is important for the university to recognize these students and the overall wellbeing of the campus. 

However, even though the email claims the intent is not to ostracize Chinese individuals, it is still not surprising to see these “just-in-case” warnings spread across the campus.

The UW-Eau Claire will not allow students or faculty to travel to China for study abroad or faculty-led immersion trips during the spring semester of 2020. 

Additionally, the university will not release the names or personal information in regards to any student or employee who might have been in contact with the virus, the email said.

Even with a security measure to ensure privacy of infected individuals, students of color on campus may still be subject to bias, regardless of the fact that they are at a minimal risk of becoming infected.

According to NBC News, members of the Asian community have showcased their protests against the xenophopic-related comments and posts being directed toward them on social media.

Tanny Jiraprapasuke, a 44-year-old Thai American, shared her own encounter with prejudice on the subway through her Facebook account on Saturday, Feb. 8, in Los Angeles.

The video showcases a man directed angry comments and verbal accusations at Jiraprapasuke. She then realized his actions were directly related to the coronavirus.

“I dismissed him as a drunk until I noticed he was targeting me,” the post said. “Trapped, scared and shocked, I went into self preservation mode and avoided eye contact.”

Jiraprapasuke said her main concern was how alone she felt. As the man shouted words of hate speech, she was the only Asian American on the train.

Global examples of these instances are direct proof of how quick individuals will turn on an entire community, based on only the assumptions made by the color of their skin.

While these aggressors attempt to justify their concerns, the harm is still irreversible. These instances can occur anywhere, even on a bus. 

Who is to say these instances of hate do not occur on university campuses nationwide?

“I’m not even Chinese,” Jiraprapasuke said to NBC. “He’s really attacking me because I look a certain way.”

Whether or not the intention is to hurt others feelings, a harmful impact can still resonate. 

There comes a time where, as individuals, we must decide when an interaction is caused by genuine defense or a lack of information on the subject.

According to WEAU 13 News, the U.S. State Department established a travel warning for China at a “Level 4 Do Not Travel” and the CDCP issued a “Level 3 – Avoid Nonessential Travel” warning on travel to China.

The first Wisconsin coronavirus case was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 5, WEAU 13 News said. 

This first contaminated individual within the state — the 12th case within the United States — is a resident of Dane County, Wisconsin. They had returned from a trip to Beijing, China, on Jan. 30, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The contaminated adult is currently isolated at their home and is in close contact with the UW Hospital staff as they are monitored, the Wisconsin State Journal said.

The access to this knowledge may come as a relief for some. It is very reassuring to know the medical assistance within the Wisconsin area expresses extreme concern for this issue.

It is important to recognize the severity of the virus and provide help to those who face the risk of being contaminated or transmitting the virus. 

Yet, as a student within the state of Wisconsin, especially, it is a responsibility to not turn a blind eye on the discrimination that may occur within my own backyard.

Katie Hardie, a first-year writer for The Badger Herald, discussed her research on the prejudiced behaviors towards Asian Americans within her community. 

Hardie said that within the state of Wisconsin and any area worldwide, shared knowledge has a powerful impact on a community. The harm comes when the information spread is false.

“Tying a disease to a minority race not only spreads further ignorance, but it carries the danger of alienating students who sometimes already feel out of place on this campus,” Hardie said.

Hardie and others who have shared their thoughts on harmful prejudice are correct. 

The coronavirus cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against members of the Asian American community and Asian community members worldwide.

As the virus continues to affect communities worldwide, this can be encouraging for others to review their actions and how they interact with those around them. 

The coronavirus is an extremely sensitive subject at its core. There is no need to make the issue worse by instilling hate and discrimination onto others.

Nelson can be reached at [email protected]