Your Racism Is Showing: Coronavirus and the Racist History of Pandemics

Coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, has traveled across the world, and its numbers—of new infections and deaths—are quite distressing.


As COVID-19 spreads, so does fear, prejudice and xenophobiaor, a fear of “foreigners.” The virus appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and Chinese people (along with other East Asian folks) have since been turned into villains—those thought to be the carriers of this disease. Hence, the rise of a more specific form of bigotry: sinophobia, or the fear of Chinese people.

Merlin Chowkwanyun is a historian and an assistant professor of socio-medical sciences at Columbia University. He says that this idea that people from other countries carry contagious disease dates back to the 19th century. Chowkwanyun says that a pandemic like COVID-19 causes people to look for scapegoats, or “outsiders” and creates a “rhetoric of blame.”


“And it [the rhetoric of blame] really follows a couple, I think, basic themes that have been remarkably persistent...through many, many decades, across centuries. One is that the outsiders have this kind of intrinsic quality, something maybe biological, but it makes them more prone to getting diseases and to affecting others,” Chowkwanyun said. “And the other [theme] is sort of related to that—but I think it’s distinct—it’s that these outsiders behave badly; so they don’t clean themselves, they eat strange foods, they live in cluttered spaces, very cramped spaces.”

Today, this link between contagious diseases and “outsiders” continues.

Recently, we’ve seen this prejudice play out in the form of violence, harassment and outward displays of bigotry. C’mon, Boosie—do better.

It’s no surprise that bigot-in-chief Donald Trump is guilty of racializing the coronavirus, too. Y’all’s president has referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” on multiple occasions, and had the gall to defend his stance during a press conference, saying “It’s not racist at all.” Trump has also evoked some of his old bigoted rhetoric in a tweet saying that we need a wall, “now more than ever.”

This is the leader of the free world. Father, help us. Here’s the thing: Trump’s been a bigot.


Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease specialist and host of the American Diagnosis and Epidemic podcasts. She’s worked extensively with Ebola, Tuberculosis and HIV populations, and says that those diseases were racialized, too.

“Remember the 2014 midterm elections with Ebola?” Gounder continued, “You had our current president, you had Chris Christie, you and others tweeting things like those dirty Africans. You know, I was told that I was crazy, that I was a traitor to this country for wanting to go over there to help people.”


Gounder says that COVID-19 and its transmission has nothing to do with race—protecting yourself and your families is about common sense.

“Regardless of race, what you need to be doing is really the basic stuff. So washing your hands and I know people are like, really?” The doctor continued, “The best way to protect yourself: Wash your hands, wipe down your surfaces in your kitchen and your bathroom.” Dr. Gounder also says that social distancing is critical in suppressing COVID-19.


In this episode of Unpack That, let’s dig-in to pandemics and the ugly racism that follows.

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.



Academics and outlets like theroot aren’t saying this because they are paid by the Chinese or even really that they’re just reflexively anti-Trump.

It’s for the same reason they obscured how AIDS spread: progressivism is the system of denying where problems come from.

This is the same reason they obscure things like “per capita”. It’s a simple concept - and once you understand it, progressivism is forced to walk back several steps. Because the root source of the problem has suddenly become a lot more clear.

Journos and the academics who feed them work constantly to convince us they’re our social immune system.

But they are not telling how to prevent the spread of the virus. They are helping to make it a pandemic.

They are not keeping you safe. “They are the virus”.

Instead of being wary of who and under what systems these diseases are coming from. We have academics like in the video telling us to ignore our lying eyes.

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