fredag 31. januar 2020

As the coronavirus spreads, fear is fueling racism and xenophobia

On a French newspaper's front page last weekend, big block letters announced "Yellow Alert" next to an image of a Chinese woman wearing a face mask. Another headline in the same paper read "New Yellow Peril?" above an article about the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. The headlines drew immediate outrage. Readers accused the paper of using ignorant and offensive language. 

"Yellow Peril" was an old racist ideology that targeted East Asians in Western countries. The phrase embodies the worst of anti-Asian fears and stereotypes, which have plagued immigrant communities since the first waves of Chinese immigration to the United States began in the 19th century. In the US, government propaganda and pop culture at the time spread wildly racist and inaccurate images of Chinese people as unclean, uncivilized, immoral, and a threat to society. To invoke the term now, in a story about death and illness in Asia, seems thoughtless at best and blatantly racist at worst.