Why do people use coronavirus as an excuse for racism?

I don’t know about yours, but my social feeds have, at various points, been infected with tacky jokes about coronavirus involving Corona bottles, unwilling subjects, fake news, and second-hand humour.

The pandemic is undoubtedly dangerous, but this is no cause for panic, much less hateful actions that marginalise the Chinese race.

coronavirus, racist memes

The outbreak of coronavirus has opened doors to discrimination that should be left shut.

Last month, five people were arrested in Malaysia for sharing false information about the virus via social media. In France, the newspaper Le Courier Picard used headlines “Alerte jaune” (Yellow alert) and “Le péril jaune?” (Yellow peril?) alongside an image of a Chinese woman wearing a protective face mask. Sam Pham, a University of Manchester student of East Asian descent, wrote that whilst on a bus ride, he overheard a woman advising, “I wouldn’t go to Chinatown if I were you, they have that disease.”

Closer to home, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun printed a scathing title with the racist slur “Pandamonium”, and in Sydney, fake news has emerged about a non-existent “Bureau of Diseasology in Parramatta,” which lists areas reportedly contaminated by the virus proved by “positive readings” in the air near train stations.

The Western Sydney suburbs in question have large populations of people Chinese or Vietnamese in birth or descent. The Instagram post also warned against products made or held in areas close to Wuhan China, such as Mi Goreng noodles, wagyu beef and fortune cookies as they may contain traces of the so-called “corona’s virus.”

An entire Instagram account dedicated to the virus has been created, with a bio that reads “Just trying to make y’all laugh before we die.” The feed is populated by digs at Chinese culture and is one of many that are circulating the web.



As Sam Pham says, “The coronavirus is a human tragedy, so let’s not allow fear to breed hatred, intolerance and racism.” Ignore fake news, stand up for any victims of discrimination and stop the spread of shitty, offensive memes by enjoying some better ones.