Racism in the midst of COVID-19

There is a lot happening in the world right now. Change is everywhere. We’re in uncharted waters and the current situation bought on by the COVID-19 virus has forced us all to alter the way we live to attempt to reduce its spread. The world is in a state of emergency.

As seen many times when faced with a catastrophe, mankind demonstrates great unity, solidarity and resolve. At the same time, it also exposes some ugly traits including selfishness, greed and racism and the COVID-19 epidemic is no different. We have seen people’s selfishness in their disregard for social distancing. We have seen greed in panic buying including the stockpiling of groceries and medications that others rely upon and we have seen racism towards people simply because of the origin of the virus.

This narrow minded, bigoted and prejudiced belief and behaviour is sadly on public display, exercised by individuals who aim it at those who are no more responsible for the virus’ beginnings than they are. In a modern day this type of bullying shouldn’t exist, but it sadly does. It lurks in corners cowardly awaiting opportunities to strike, where it quickly retreats back into its ugly hiding hole to await its next strike. It’s a solitary beast with fewer and fewer followers and knows its safety is compromised in most settings. It feeds on hate and ignorance. But where does this hatred come from? Is it something that we can fix? Would understanding it somehow make it easier for those who have had to endure it? Perhaps not, but if ignorance leads to hate then surly knowledge leads to understanding? If we refuse to try to understand then the cycle of ignorance repeats and the hatred starts to feed itself and continues to grow.

People are often pretty quick to judge a person on a preconceived idea; not just a person’s race, it might be their religious beliefs, their sexual preferences, their occupation, their hobbies, even their choice of food. People often put individuals into a stereotypical group. If an individual is into playing strategy board games, for example, you might think of that person as a nerd. It might just be that that individual is a daredevil skydiving instructor who likes the social interaction that a games group may offer. Most, if not all of us, will be guilty of having thought something like this before.

As a race, when faced with a tragedy or a disaster of some description, people are often more focused on pointing the angry finger of blame than to find a solution. This may be partly because these scenarios might be happening on the other side of the world and there is no physical way to assist. Most people have an inner desire pre-programmed into them to help when needed. This can cause frustration when they’re unable to and this frustration can be misdirected into blame. We inherit views and opinions from those around us. From our parents, our teachers, workmates, friends, magazines or media we subscribe to, even the community we live in ... and in an age where there is so much information at our disposal that isn’t always substantiated. We get a sense of right and wrong very early in life and this sense is reinforced and strengthened as we grow older and gain life experience. If we have gained beliefs and opinions that we feel are wrong, the only way to break the cycle is to do something about it.

We are a social race and we like to spend time with other people who share the same ideals and beliefs as we do. We can have a lot in common with these people. Background, culture, language. There is nothing wrong with that. It does become a problem however if we begin to think that our group is superior to another. There is no race greater than another. We are all inhabitants of the same planet.

So, there are various reasons why a person may have racist beliefs. There is never an excuse for it and understanding the reasons won’t make it feel much better. People who share racist beliefs are the minority and that is important and powerful to remember. It is not accepted in society and those who express these beliefs in public are normally torn to shreds by the court of public opinion.

What can we do if we are exposed to racism? It really depends on the situation for the exact course of action to take. If it happens in a school, report it to a teacher and principal. If it happens at work, then report it to your management, in a shopping centre, the central management. Get the police involved as in most cases it’s illegal. Don’t feel that it’s not worth it because it always is, even if nothing comes from it because by standing up to it, we are doing our bit to eradicate it. Do whatever you can.

Why am I writing this blog? Because somebody I know was recently racially abused just because she stepped out of her house to exercise and she is of a particular racial descent. She then spent the rest of the week hidden inside her house through fear of a repeat incident. It sickens me that she even has to consider that being a possibility every time she leaves her house.

I pray that we are strong enough as a people to stand up and become the solution and not weak enough to feed it.

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