Global crises and panic open the door for the viruses of racism and xenophobia, our generation must stop the spread, says Elaine Zhai.
Now COVID19 has made people angry at fish. Only a few weeks after people in China began taking the first steps in resuming their normal lives, fears of a new strain erupted in Beijing. The reemergence has sparked rumours which lay the blame on imported salmon, giving rise to a new word – xenopescophobia; the fear of foreign fish.
For centuries this has been used to strengthen racial divisions and reinforce white supremacy. In fact, this fear has been used to ignite countless massacres and injustices. In the 1800s, westward expansion and increased labor competition between Irish immigrants and local Americans heightened domestic social and economic tensions. To distract from the growing internal conflict, rumors of the Irish being “alcoholics” and “savages” circulated. The anti-Irish sentiment eventually culminated into the formation of the Know Nothing party, a platform intended to keep Catholics and immigrants from gaining any political power. Then, during the Long Depression, politicians and bankers sought to deflect blame for the recession and rising unemployment by informing American labourers that Chinese immigrants were stealing their jobs and threatening their economic security. This xenophobia was legalised with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
And now once again we’re playing the blame game. The unforeseen arrival of the COVID19 virus to the United States has led to finger-pointing –and violence — against the Chinese-American community. President Trump, in need of a scapegoat, has deemed the pandemic the “Chinese Virus,” thrusting Asian Americans into the line of fire.
My generation needs to stand against this behaviour and actively reject the age-old approach of looking for people to blame in times of panic. Instead, let’s set an example by working to address our fear through taking positive, productive, and inclusive action. Our rejection of the xenophobia of the past can be one bright spot in these dark times.
My name is Elaine Zhai, and I’m a rising senior in high school. I began journaling as a form of self-expression at an early age, and this led to a love of writing. In my free time, I like to watch movies and play softball for my school’s Varsity team.