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Racism and Solidarity in the time of Covid-19

RCASU's Diversity Support Officer - Halimo offers her current thoughts on racism and solidarity...

Racism and Solidarity in the time of Covid-19

The COVID-19 crisis has presented a global challenge to our public health system, economy and day to day life. It’s effects have been far reaching, they are not only economic, political but also social, and over the past few months we have seen the way the virus has created anxiety and instability for many. For instance, it is clear that this crisis has laid bare and exacerbated the already existing inequality across the globe, exposing certain groups to harm.

In particular, as the pandemic emerged so did racist rhetoric. The most obvious example of this has been Trump laying blame on China. In a recent press briefing which took place on the 12th of May, President Trump when asked why he was making the COVID-19 crisis into a competition, responded to a East Asian reporter saying “Ask China”. Although the virus has spread globally, the US president has fixated the origins of the virus to China, this has resulted in widespread anti asian bigotry. In fact, a recent report in the Guardian showed that anti-asian hate crimes had increased by 21% in the UK, which was threefold from the previous year. 

Quite rightly, President Trump's comments were met with outrage and criticism. The World Health Organisation chairman, Dr Tedros Adanhom Ghebreyesus, responded to such incidents with a  statement urging for “honest solidarity at the global level”. In the face of an indiscriminate pandemic, there is no time, place or energy for racism which ultimately hinders any co-operation and progress globally and locally. 

Moreover, whilst some have referred to the virus as an equaliser, BAME communities in the UK have been especially hit hard. It is clear that everyone has been impacted across the board in some way or another, however, the reality on the ground is far more complex. Structural inequalities appear stark and we are beginning to see the effects of that playing out. It has been reported that Ethnic Minorities were dying at a disportionately high rate. Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director of Runnymede Trust expressed the following about the dire situation facing bame communities. She said that “Very few people will be immune from the health or economic consequences of COVID-19, but major differences will occur in how people from different ethnic and socio-economic groups will be able to recover from the impact” If anything COVID-19 must lead us to examine and redress these inequalities. Many have said that we cannot return to normal, and I have to agree.

In light of this, it has never been more important to show solidarity with others and there are many that have answered this call. We have seen the way that communities have come together to shield those at risk. For example, mutual aid groups emerged very quickly to respond to the crisis. Over 4000 now exist within the UK with the purpose of providing practical support to neighbours and those that need it most. Covid-19, with all its complexities and difficulties also presents us with a real opportunity to lay the groundwork for a more caring, kinder and equitable society.

In a recent piece by the Guardian, Sonia Zhou, a chinese business owner reflects on the impact the virus has had on her community in Italy. Also facing the rise of anti-asian racism, her message is clear, we need solidarity to get us through this crisis. It has never been more important to relate to each other on a human level. In the words of Sonia Zhoa, “If we are united we will beat this virus”. 

This article was written by Diversity Support Officer, Halimo Hussain.