Viruses don’t discriminate

Being part of a majority or a minority doesn’t make any of us more or less likely to be affected by Covid-19 or any other virus. Fact is, viruses know no borders. They don’t take into account any differences of nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or anything else. 

Depending on the virus, groups might be more vulnerable to the symptoms than others, but everyone is just as likely to be contaminated in the first place. This isn’t specific to Covid-19. It’s been true pandemic after pandemic throughout history. If anything, these global health crises have shown us how connected humanity is across the world. Knowing this should prevent any prejudice, shouldn’t it? 

Sadly, with Covid-19 came a surge of discrimination 

Unfortunately, ever since the virus was first recorded in Wuhan, communities all over the world have reported an increasing number of cases of xenophobia. In Melbourne, restaurants in China Town saw business plummet way before the country’s first case had been recorded. Hatred against people from China and other Asian countries took despicable forms and infiltrated everyday language with people calling Covid-19 “the Chinese flu”. 

As the virus spread, more and more countries began pointing the finger at each other. Covid-19 even became a politicised issue used by different parties to criticise their opponents and seduce their electorate. If only, we could all – our leaders included – listen to China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun when he says: “We need to support the United Nations and the WHO in playing a leading and coordinating role in defeating Covid-19, the common enemy of all mankind. We should stand firm against the politicization of the pandemic and remove all obstacles which hinder our cooperation”. So, why don’t we? 

Discrimination might part of us

According to social psychology, our brains need to deal with so much information that we have put in place ways to categorise everything around us. This helps us make sense of our environment quickly, efficiently, and effectively. It is necessary for our survival and helps us navigate new and unknown situations. It is incredibly helpful but can lead to issues when applied to people rather than places and objects. 

One of these problems is our ability to assess who belongs to “us” vs. “them” within a fraction of a second based on assumptions that aren’t always accurate. Another is our tendency to then tend to favour the group we deem belonging to. Sadly, we can’t just stop this from happening as we are unaware of a lot of the stereotypes we have. These are commonly referred to as ‘unconscious biases’. Knowing that they are unconscious, what can we do about these biases?

But discrimination doesn’t define us

The first step to overcome our biases is awareness both of the fact that biases exist and of which ones are part of us personally. A helpful way to find out more about this topic is to take the Implicit Association Test. The results might surprise you. 

After awareness, the second step I would recommend taking is openness. It might sound easy but it is harder than one might think. You’ll have to challenge your way of thinking and expose yourself to other approaches and beliefs. This can be done through reading, watching, travelling, and spending time with people from all backgrounds and preferences. When being around others, take the opportunity to ask questions and be willing to hear the answer with an open mind, an open heart, and an open soul. 

Discrimination might be part of us, but it doesn’t define us. Together, and only together, will we be able to overcome both viruses: Covid-19 and the dangerous wave of discrimination that has come with it. Just like viruses know no borders, borderless minds, hearts, and souls will see us through this turmoil.