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  • Writer's pictureTracy Sherlock

Racism has no place in covid-19 fight

This Wikimedia map shows the density of covid-19 infections per capita as of May 19, 2020.

Racism in any setting is disgusting.

In a world dealing with a pandemic, there is simply to no place for it. We need to work together to solve this problem, not tear ourselves apart.

The jury is still out on how the coronavirus that causes covid-19 started, but whatever your own beliefs, it’s folly to blame individual Asian people. In B.C., I believe Asian people have helped keep our pandemic under control.

The Vancouver Police Department has seen an increase in reports of hate crimes against Asians since the covid-19 pandemic started. There were 11 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in April and there have been 20 in 2020 so far, the police said.

Last week, an Indigenous woman who works for the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and who has allergies, sneezed while outside walking her dog. A white man punched her in the face, yelling racist slurs about Asian people and covid-19, the UBCIC said in a news release.

Among the other racist crimes, there was hateful graffiti painted on windows at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver’s Chinatown, a stranger punched an Asian woman in the face in a seemingly random attack, and another man assaulted a woman who spoke up when he was harassing two Asian women on a bus. That man was later found to have died of a drug overdose.

On Sunday, B.C. Premier John Horgan released a statement about these attacks.

“People are being targeted as they go about their daily lives. It is unacceptable,” Horgan said. “I have said it before: hate has no place in our province and it will not be tolerated. …(W)e must all stand together to call out racism and discrimination when we see it.”

He’s right. Racism is unacceptable and it should be called out whenever it is seen.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC, called on the public and the government to oppose racism of any kind.

“We are absolutely disgusted and angered about the violent, racist attack against Dakota Holmes, and we offer our sincere and heartfelt sympathy and solidarity to Asian communities who have borne the brunt of COVID-19 related racism,” Phillip said.

Divisions and hatred will not help us get through this pandemic. If anything, the virus has shown us that we are all one; equally vulnerable to covid-19.

In B.C., we’re proud of how we’ve kept the pandemic under control. Our death rate per one million people is about 28 – lower than Canada as a whole (143 per million), the United States (274 per million) and many countries in Europe. New Zealand has just four deaths per million, but Australia has 70 deaths per million.

We’re lucky to have the cool, calm and kind Dr. Bonnie Henry as our provincial health officer and also lucky that spring break fell when it did, in time for the government to recognize the dangers of international travel.

I would also argue that we’re lucky to have a significant Asian population in B.C. I don’t want to stereotype, but from what I’ve seen, many Asians were prepared for a pandemic and continue to model some of the best preventative behaviour.

I live in Richmond, a city well known for its large Asian population. It was our local paper, the Richmond News, that first broke the story that Asian restaurants were losing business due to the coronavirus, on February 1, well before the shutdowns we saw in March. There was one covid-19 case in British Columbia at that time.

When I read that story, I thought it was a massive overreaction for people to avoid restaurants because of an outbreak in China. Now I know how naïve I was.

In my neighbourhood, most people wear masks, even out walking or cycling on our greenway bike path. People are careful to maintain that six-foot distance.

Even though health experts say masks are not the most effective way of protecting yourself from covid-19, they all agree masks protect others from you. When I see someone wearing a mask, I’m grateful for their choice and I respect it.

I haven’t witnessed any episodes of racism recently in Richmond and I hope I never do, but if it happens, I promise I will speak out. Blaming Asian individuals for covid-19, is like blaming Caucasian individuals for Donald Trump. It’s absurd.

Our strength is in our diversity and we reject all forms of racism, discrimination, intolerance and bigotry, Horgan said in his statement.

“Racism is also a virus. Through challenging times, British Columbians must stay united,” Horgan said. “We are always stronger and more resilient as a province when we treat each other with kindness, generosity and respect.”

I intend to.

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