Illustration by Alexandria Moore

China is currently in the middle of an epidemic.  The coronavirus has infected 32,000 in China’s country alone and led to over 600 deaths. It’s gotten to the point where the World Health Organization confirmed the virus is a global emergency. Unfortunately, the epidemic has resurrected an age-old disease: xenophobia.

NBC News published a report on how the social media personality Michelle Phan was harassed on Twitter due to her Chinese background.  Once again, social media’s ease of accessibility makes it a cesspool for pointless bigotry.

This isn’t the first time the world was scared of a deadly virus spreading. Six years ago, America was afraid of Ebola working its way over from Africa, and history repeats itself with the coronavirus, which has been reported to have infected 14 Americans aboard a quarantined cruise ship as of Feb. 9.

The coronavirus is a big problem. Refusing to help the Chinese and slandering them doesn’t do them any favors.  There are millions of Chinese who have family living in the infected areas of their home country, and the last thing they need to deal with is people giving them odd looks and spreading falsehoods.

In light of the epidemic, President Trump put out a travel ban barring any foreign nationals who traveled to China to return to the U.S.  Such a ban is considered inappropriate by the World Health Organization since it hinders the progress of sending help.

The sooner China receives help, the sooner the threat dissipates.

Medical research has come a long way since ancient times. If medieval society had access to the equipment we have now, chances are the Bubonic plague wouldn’t have stricken Europe and Asia for so long.

Technology has advanced, but clearly xenophobia hasn’t. Nonwestern countries have dealt with racism and prejudice for too long, and to see its presence is still upsetting.

Despite my concerns, I do believe things will begin to turn around for China.  When the SARS epidemic happened in November 2002, it was contained and neutralized by July 2003, so it is a strong possibility the same will happen with the coronavirus.

Still, refusing to show compassion or support for someone whose race is dealing with a disease is disrespectful and doesn’t do ours any favors. We act as if we have moved past the racially insensitive caricatures of the 19th and 20th centuries, but social media shows how capable we are of keeping old and archaic ideas alive.