Fight the Virus, Not the People

Editor’s Note:  This spring, Rectory 8th-grader, Yoyo Z., wrote an essay for The New York Times 2020 Student Editorial Contest. She wanted to express her deep concerns about the initial discrimination directed towards people of Chinese heritage when the COVID-19 health crisis first started to spread across the globe. We are proud to say that Yoyo’s essay was chosen as one of the Middle School Round 3 Finalists. Congratulations, Yoyo, for your hard work and perseverance and for taking the time to send the world such an important message!

Fight the Virus, Not the People by Yoyo Z.

As a second-year Chinese-American boarding student, COVID-19 has impacted me since the beginning. Not only has the virus provoked the dilemma of whether to stay in the U.S. or fly home, but the xenophobic discrimination that closely followed its spread also revealed to me some unforeseen weaknesses of humanity. 

Since the outbreak, China has been regarded as the epicenter of the disease. Racist actions such as boycotts of Chinese products, disrespectful public remarks, and mocking pictures of stereotypical figures occur daily. Though these incidents may seem trivial, they eventually add up to a devastating social phenomenon. 

To give an example of how xenophobia harms societies worldwide, a recent Christian Science Monitor article highlighted the importance of globalization. Even though “some nationalists in Europe and the U.S. […] are now pointing to the virus as an added reason to seal the borders and bring factories back home,” international trade has had crucial benefits, including a “historic decline in poverty rates” worldwide.

Even without considering China’s economic significance, the idea of demeaning one country is simply not substantiated morally or ethically. According to professor Natalia Monia on ABC News, “The idea that this disease is mapped onto certain countries, and not others, is one key way in which we are going to hinder our ways of containing this disease.” 

We have promised to remember the Holocaust, commemorated anti-racism activists, and pledged to “never repeat the history,” but amid this unprecedented crisis, our collective progress is displayed under the spotlight. Especially in such a vulnerable state, we cannot let our destructive prejudices get in the way again. 

To date, COVID-19 has reached 210 countries and territories. At this point, people from every corner of the world are involved. Without every single person doing their part to support the sick and minimize community spread, the virus will continue to be a threat. 

Thankfully, there is always hope among despair. Scientists are striving to develop a vaccine; governments and medical professionals are urging people to stay home and practice social distancing. Canadian citizens have started a “caremongering” movement and provided thousands with practical aid. These are the ones we should be listening to and modeling. 

This virus outbreak has underscored the injustices prevalent in today’s society. Like Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” It is our responsibility to reflect on history and speak up for what is right. Only when we handle our faults with solemnity and integrity, can humanity be safely preserved. 

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