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Letter: Increasing racism in the Coronavirus pandemic

letter to the editor

In the last few years, there has been a noticeable shift in the rise of anti-Chinese tensions in the United States. These tensions have been expressed in the trade debate, the presidential stage and the oncoming McCarthyism on college campuses. The recent media coverage is also beginning to display an anti-Chinese urge in renaming the Coranavirus the “Chinese Flu.”

This racism is most visible in the renaming of the Coranavirus to the “Chinese Flu.” Yes, there is the precedent of the Spanish Flu, but are we going to follow the precedent of the 1920s?  Attaching the name of a country to a disease is nothing more than a step to blaming that country for the disease.  The media are increasingly reinforcing this by the discussion of Chinese culinary culture.

The established and non-established media are beginning to point fingers to a seafood market in Wuhan as culpable. This is nothing more than a metaphor attacking the eating habits of a Chinese minority. Eating habits that are not all that rare in the world. I know from personal experience that it is common in Texas to eat armadillos and pretty much any animal that can be hunted. In Kentucky, a traditional delicacy is squirrel brains. So, blaming a pandemic on Chinese eating habits is nothing more than ignorance of human culture and at worst overt racism.

The Coronavirus is a frightening disease that is pushing people’s prejudices and ignorance to the forefront. As Duke students, we should not fall under that trap. Instead of being frightened, we should ask our Chinese colleagues if their families are safe. More significant effort should be made to connect our campus with our Kunshan campus. I recommend that our prestigious biological program hold public talks and discussions. The student body should actively push this information to the greater North Carolina community. Only through knowledge can we prevent an increasing rise and reinforcement in anti-Chinese attitudes. 

Francisco Reveriano is a Masters student in the Electrical Engineering department.

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