February 28, 2020

Imagine being cooped up in a hotel room. Sitting and looking out your window, down into the empty streets through which only every few minutes does a car pass. The government has instructed you to stay inside and not leave your building. The cost of food delivery is increasing since the fear of infection is causing businesses to close up shop. You haven’t talked to a person in days, aside from the video calls to your family in America. The few people you see cover their faces with masks. The death toll is over 2,000, and thousands more are infected.

COVID-19 is a globally feared virus whose origin and treatment are unknown. What is recognized is that symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Although the global health department deems the virus untreatable, it has not stopped people from devising their own “remedies.” False claims that gargling salt water or eating garlic will cure those who report symptoms have surfaced and some have even gone as far as saying that drinking bleach proves an effective way of averting the sickness. Not only is the coronavirus causing circulated misinformation, but it is also bringing racism to the surface.

When some people walk by a Chinese-looking person on the street, they cover their mouth or hold their breath. A couple of tourists are appraised by passersby. Even in Berkeley High School (BHS), racist remarks are casually mentioned in the classroom. A classmate is sick, and apparently, they have the coronavirus. A person sitting right next to me will call out his friends several times and accuse them of being Asian and having the virus. People are reverting to racist stereotypes that all Asians belong to a dirty and sick race. Distorted knowledge is leading to xenophobic tendencies in the world; America included.

The fact is, there have been under forty deaths outside of mainland China due to the coronavirus. In America — a country of three hundred and thirty million people — there are only 35 confirmed cases. So the chances that your classmate has coronavirus are extremely thin. Another incorrect assumption is that only Chinese people can catch the virus. True, COVID-19 originated from China, but that does not imply that only those from China can contract it. Any person is vulnerable to catching the disease. Any person can have coronavirus.

As a student at BHS, I fully support the concept of allies and equality. It is my firm belief that we should all treat each other with matched regard and advocate for one another when necessary. And I think it very necessary to call attention to the mounting discrimination in my school. It is not okay that people who look like me have to feel uncomfortable around their peers. It is not okay to draw humor from the cause of thousands of deaths. It is not okay for anyone to have to feel like they cannot sniff or sneeze or clear their throat. I get it, the unknown can be unnerving. Joking is a way for a lot of people to cope with fear or anxiety. But when someone asks — even in a joking way — that another person keeps their distance because there is a chance that person may be sick with the virus, it can have a negative impact on that person. Be it one with a negative connotation or not, unless well-reasoned and informed thought has been taken with respect to one’s actions, people’s feelings should not ever be ignored in favor of amusement or prejudice.

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