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Coronavirus and Intercultural Understanding Stereotypes Coursework

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Updated: Jun 7th, 2022

Coronavirus disease, commonly known as COVID-19, was first reported in December 2019 by medics in China. In three months, most Asian and European countries had reported thousands of confirmed cases, as well as deaths. Following the expeditious spread of the virus, many countries declared a lockdown or movement restrictions as the first course of action in combating the disease (Aguilera, 2020). The United States of America made a declaration that they would not allow certain foreigners who present a risk of spreading the virus into their borders.

Over time, an increase in the number of Coronavirus cases globally has generated multiple perceptions of the disease among people. Culture, way of life, common values, and beliefs, whether shared or learned, affects people’s behavioral and social practices (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). For instance, Asians are facing social discrimination, prejudice, and increased racial stereotyping because the first case of Coronavirus disease was reported on their continent. A great percentage of the world’s population perceives and relates this disease with the people of Asian origin. This has led to most people dissociating themselves from individuals who might be from Asia, especially if their descent is China for fear of contracting the disease. Chinese and members of the family who have had one of them tested positive for COVID-19 have taken to social media platforms to publicly share messages of stigmatization and negative stereotypes (Aguilera, 2020). The level of discrimination is extreme to the extent that people are publicly avoiding interaction with nation-specific or ethnic-particular groups to avoid contracting the virus.

Connor, a ten-year-old boy of Chinese origin was playing with his friend in their school in Georgetown during recess. A group of boys later approached them and expressed interest in playing along. As the game continued, the young boys started behaving queerly towards Connor and his Chinese friend. At first, Connor continued playing unoffended but later became upset because of the stereotype and ill-treatment. Nadia, Connor’s mother explained that she thought the young boys acted out of fear and not spite. Arguably, the boys, though acting out of fear, were xenophobic towards Connor and his friend based on their Asian roots (Aguilera, 2020). While the young boys among many others may express remorse for such behavior, acts like these are a result of stereotyping.

Helping Others Understand that Stereotypes are Harmful

Over the years, arising pandemics have been characterized by racial discrimination, social stigmatization, blame games, and stereotyping. While COVID-19 and its related stereotypes may be regarded as clichés with no relevant meaning in society, their effects may be detrimental to the community that may overlook them. For instance, the negative use of social media platforms to spread discriminative messages against Asians and blaming them for the disease outbreak and deaths that came along with it has resulted in substantial social stigma. People have taken to social media to express agitation and racist messages against certain groups of people based on their descent and nationality. As depicted in history, individuals in discriminated and stigmatized groups are often reluctant to seek health services once they start displaying symptoms. In the year 2009, Mexicans experienced discrimination attributed to the Swine Flu pandemic. Africans too were victims of the same during the Ebola virus disease outbreak in 2014. Additionally, Haitians were scapegoated in the 80s following the HIV/AIDS outbreak. Presently, this is evident in Asia because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as death rates remain high in Asian countries (Aguilera, 2020). Many may justify such deeds of stereotyping, discrimination, and social stigmatization by claiming that they acted out of fear, but in reality, xenophobia existed even before the Coronavirus disease outbreak.

In the event of a pandemic, actions towards combating the disease should be from a point of understanding and facts rather than acting out of fright as recommended by the World Health Organization. In 1918, people came together during the Influenza outbreak and decided to act against it. There were clear roles among volunteers on how to handle the sick while observing self-protection measures. This way, infected individuals did not have to suffer prejudice nor feel the need to avoid seeking medical attention in fear of social stigma (Aguilera, 2020). Eventually, through acts of collaboration and unity in combating the disease, people overcame the pandemic.

Increased awareness will play a vital role in making people understand that stereotypes are harmful. Presently, COVID-19 campaigns against Coronavirus-related stereotypes are on the rise, especially in social media platforms. For instance, the French have taken to social media to counter stereotyping and social discrimination using positive hashtags. United Nations also took to twitter platform to convey messages against racial discrimination (Aguilera, 2020). Moreover, officials in the Centre for Disease Control have made press calls to convey messages against discrimination and stereotyping people based on their descent. Fostering intercultural relationships by embracing interaction with different people may also go a long way in breaking stereotypes, coping with differences, enhancing knowledge, both general and specific, as well as increasing skills that may be useful in combating the disease (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). Finally, while facing the current COVID-19 pandemic, everyone irrespective of culture, nationality, religion, or ethnicity should always ensure that their intended actions to combat Coronavirus disease or deal with its victims are not from a point of prejudice or negative stereotypes.

References

Aguilera, J. (2020). Xenophobia ‘is a pre-existing condition.’ How harmful stereotypes and racism are spreading around the Coronavirus. Time. Web.

Martin, J., & Nakayama, J. (2018). Intercultural communication in contexts (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

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