Darpan Amle Sunday, 5 April 2020

Racism and The Pandemic

Darpan Amle
Sunday, 5 April 2020

Racism and The Pandemic

Pandemics or outbreaks create an atmosphere of fear. Fear is a breeding ground for hatred. And fear is a tried and tested ingredient for racism and Xenophobia to thrive. The COVID 19 (Coronovirus) has unmasked social and political cracks that have prevailed within communities. The responses to this fear have been racialized and utter discriminatory seriously affecting the marginalized groups. Throughout history, viruses or infectious diseases have emerged as highly stigmatizing and have been associated with the 'OTHERING' and a number of negative social representations. The acts of discrimination occur within not only social and historical contexts but also through political contexts which is highly influential in today's world. For example, The President of the United States of America mostly referred to as the most powerful man in the world Donald Trump referring this dangerous respiratory syndrome COVID 19 as 'Chinese Virus', ultimately linking the health threat to trade negotiations and foreign policies. Now with the number of cases in the USA overtaking China, Trump was forced to declare a national emergency after downplaying the significance of virus for the past couple of weeks. As a result many Xenophobic incidents are happening far too often towards the Asian community in the wake of COVID 19. When the president calls this a foreign virus, high profile politicians calling it the Chinese virus it is bound to affect a lot of people. Fear and pandemic is the best way for politician and leaders to seize command and have absolute power over the people. Therefore it's necessary to carefully consider current emergency powers for longer term consequences. For example: Turkmenistan been the word 'Corona virus' and anyone found discussing it in public can be jailed by police.

Whenever there has been a major incident with some Universal or regional implications different groups of people are always targeted or the discriminated against based on some or the other stereotypes. In an atmosphere of fear and tension it is very easy for people to pick up even the smallest of excuse to start scapegoating an individual or a entire community on the basis of their appearance. In India the North East Indians are on the forefront experiencing racial attacks towards them in the wake of this virus. The North Easterners share similar bodily features with China due to some unique monogloid features, that is why North Easterners are being termed as 'Corona Carriers'. Indians without understanding the seriousness of this situation have plunged into a spree of discriminating north easterners wherein mang of them have been stopped from buying essential commodities on the sole semblance of a carrier of Corona and ignoring the people voting in from infected countries. At this extreme diabolical hour landlords have asked North Easterners to vacate their houses where even all industries, transportation routes and life in general has come to a standstill and other things are in a limbo to checkmate and control this virus.

The people of North East India now live in a state of extreme fear and tension as there has been increase in the number of racial attacks around the country. The systematic racism might lead to something dangerous like the murder of 20 year old Toni Nadia in 2014. Tania who hails from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in broad daylight over a fight of her haircut.

The ever increasing threat of this pandemic has uncovered the underlying racism and prejudice of fellow Indians towards the North easterners and all of them living in the different parts of the country continue to walk on eggshells in an effort to not provoke the mainlanders.