Cultural Sensitivity During the Age of Coronavirus: What’s Too Far?


Courtesy of South China Morning Post.

Jennifer Kim ‘21, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that a health crisis exists among us today. Many countries have declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak COVID-19, otherwise known as Coronavirus, a highly contagious virus that has infected approximately 86,000 and killed 2,942 as of the 29th of February. COVID-19 remains a global threat, and with the fear and panic that spreads with the disease, comes irrational and extreme reactions.

Though everyone is susceptible to COVID-19, its country of origin, China, and its subsequent spread to various Asian countries, has led many to start pushing their fear of the disease towards Asian people. And although avoiding certain restaurants that may leave you vulnerable to the disease may be considered a safety precaution, insulting cultures and concentrating hatred towards certain races is malicious and unacceptable. A CNN article states that racist assaults and ignorant attacks against Asians are spreading faster than the coronavirus in the US. A Chinese woman had been assaulted in NYC for merely wearing a mask. These actions are not limited to the hatred displayed in face-to-face interactions, but a smaller form of intolerance that occurs online, seemingly harmless, but in reality, revealing the xenophobic views that Asians must struggle with. 

Courtesy of The New York Times.

Hateful comments left on videos in various platforms highlight the growing hostility towards not solely the Chinese, but Southeast Asians. Such is shown in the comments of a Chinese content creator who films an eating show on TikTok. Commenters say that it’s not their fault that Chinese people eat everything that crawls, others make jokes out of her food and culture, others blame her for sending Coronavirus under videos where she eats seafood, and still, others say something along the lines of “Then they wonder how corona started in Asia,” quoted by zopeboy. In another instance, one duets a video of a Malaysian girl, quoting “to the people who have Coronavirus.” This video has gotten over 80,000 likes. Such actions show hostility towards Asians as a whole and insult their culture. They also perpetuate racist views, which can be especially dangerous as exposure to such discriminatory comments may influence young audiences, and influence others to push the blame onto Asians. Even as “harmless jokes,” such comments display cultural insensitivity towards a condition that people suffer from. We should be aware that different cultures eat different foods that are considered “unusual” in other places, and it is an unfortunate occurrence that the COVID-19 developed in China, especially considering that many are forced to eat in unsanitary conditions due to their poverty. It is really not the fault of the people that COVID-19 developed.

With such a dangerous outbreak that threatens the safety of the globe, people gear their animosity towards a group of people that they can place the blame on. It’s important to remember that during these times, people should hope for the betterment of conditions, not denigrate those who suffer.