BY Carla Fischer

COVID-19 has accelerated discriminatory sentiments against ethnic, religious, and gender groups around the world. In instances of instability, such as this pandemic, society will easily be able discriminate against individuals who might be outsiders.

History claims this to be part of a mass hysteria, a sort of social creation of hatred against another group potentially due to envy or jealousy. What we call the ‘coronavirus’ is scientifically agreed upon to originate from animals which had the virus, and later came into contact with humans. Due to innovation, industrialisation, and globalisation, animal and human proximity was bound to erupt into chaos. Discrimination became an obvious effect for me in March of 2020, when videos began to emerge in the city of Guangzhou, China showing African nationals being evicted from their homes. Reports of people being forcefully subjected to COVID-19 testing and being left to sleep in the streets. Such racist sentiments continued in Singapore where 80% of COVID-19 cases were linked to dormitories; where most of the working migrant population lives. The majority of these migrant workers come from Bangladesh and India. In the Singaporean Chinese Daily, a reader’s letter claimed foreign workers had “poor hygiene habits” that they had acquired from “backward countries”.  

Over the Pacific Ocean in the United States, Asian communities have dealt with slurs and violence for ‘looking Chinese’. Such discriminatory sentiments against Asians have been felt in most of the Western world. For example, in Stockholm a man was verbally assaulted on a bus, and a stranger yelled "corona" at my friend while they waited for the bus in Sydney. Not only are ethnic minorities being repressed, but religious minorities are as well. In India, Islamophobic sentiments have accelerated, following positive cases of COVID-19 at the annual gathering of Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi. Many have traced other cases around the country back to the gathering. This narrative has created attacks on Muslims such as the discussion around the prohibition on Muslims being allowed in gated communities. On Friday, human rights group Amnesty International said Delhi police personnel were "complicit and an active participant in the violence" that killed 40 Muslims. Along with religious and ethnic discrimination, women are increasingly being repressed. This is seen through increases in violence, such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation in Africa, and increases in women going missing in South America .  

This pandemic has accelerated the racial, gender, religious biases which certain societies hold. It has put the sentiments which we have been turning a blind eye to, on the surface. Such sentiments pose a threat to the future of peace, and create further stigma. They can cause people to flee from such discrimination causing further instability. Furthermore, it shows the lack of education of our society: we have failed to learn from the past, we need to protect minorities, because if we do not protect minorities from discrimination, sentimentalism can build up and erupt in greater deadly violence. But the reality is that these people are the real victims of this pandemic, those who are more likely to fall sick, those who are the least protected, the few ones who lie victim of inequality after this virus passes.

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