Coronavirus and Xenophobia

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Danielle Hart, Staff Writer

Flying alone is the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, let alone with a whole virus on the loose. Two weeks ago, I flew out from Bradley International Airport, the closest airport to campus, to visit my sister in Oxford, Ohio. Going through the airport, the first thing that makes me roll my eyes is the amount of people wearing surgical masks. First of all, wearing a surgical mask to protect yourself from coronavirus is like using a hat as an umbrella… certainly not the most effective measure of defense. At peak season, the flu has a better chance of getting you before this new threat so always wash your hands anyway and be mindful of touching surfaces with your bare hands. Second off, considering I went to an airport at the beginning of this whole epidemic, as an Asian American young woman I felt that I was getting so many different stares from all kinds of people. Looks from people at TSA, people boarding with me, and even the lady that sat next to me going there were of pure disgust.

Xenophobia to Asians all around is real people! I can remember the first white older lady that looked at me when I slightly coughed, and she gave me SUCH a disgusted look. I looked at her and gave the attitude right back because frankly, ma’am, I am a healthy, young person who was a little out of breath from running around the airport trying to catch my flight. There is such a small chance of me actually catching the virus at all that it was so rude and disrespectful of this older woman to look at me differently because of my race. It is not even like Hartford is checking people’s temperatures as a detection measure, like the international airports on the coasts are so I do not appreciate the stigma. It really made me feel angry and upset with everything this virus was.

On the way back, something really unexpected happened.  I was sat next to an older Asian American man. He leaned over and said, “it will be okay, we will keep getting these looks until a white person catches the virus”. The irony is, hundreds of white Americans are catching this virus, yet it is still subconsciously linked to Asian people. I felt so relieved that someone who looks like me felt the same way I felt.

Especially flying, I carried hand sanitizer with me, constantly washed my hands after being in contact with people, showered and washed all of my clothes after each flight, which are all the basic steps that I would take on any flight I have ever been on anyway. To be completely honest, I think this virus has been blown out of proportion. The groups that are most likely to be infected by literally anything are very young infants/toddlers, the elderly, and people with auto-immune diseases. Everyone who is of regular health is not seeing deadly or severe symptoms from it.

This is as of now of course. From reading the stories on it, everything seems overhyped, but maybe it is not, and only time will tell. Either way, we should look past the stigma connecting the coronavirus to Asian people and treat it as something which can affect people of any race – no matter the severity.