This outbreak is showing two distinct sides to people’s characters. On the one hand, Wuhan residents, who remain under lockdown, shout words of encouragement from their windows to their neighbours. On the other hand, we see many blaming one ethnicity for this health crisis, claiming that is the result of Chinese (bad) habits and lack of hygiene.
First, previous pandemics have originated in different locations, some of which affected far larger numbers than this (as of today at least).
Secondly, there are examples of good habits in this side of the world that had /have no parallel in other parts of the globe – for instance, those who suspect they are sick wear masks out of respect for other people’s health.
Deep down, it is painful to see that some people still do not understand that, irrespective of our eyes and skin colour, we are all part of the same humanity.
This does not mean we should not strive to find the cause of this outbreak and address it. But if there is one thing this crisis is showing, it is the need for a globally coordinated response – from prevention to cure, we are stronger united.
Yes, Ms Wu, racism is a “plague”, and one which spreads easily on social media, but I have faith in society because I think everything is curable. The question is, how much longer will it take?
Linking disease with race dehumanises us all
I recently cared for a 20-year-old woman born in Zimbabwe who had a ruptured Achilles tendon, sustained during a push-off for a basketball shot. She hurried to put on an N95 face mask on before having her ankle put in a cast and being fitted with crutches, for fear of being exposed to the Wuhan coronavirus contagion.
Presumably I, a University of Queensland-trained emergency specialist of Australian-Chinese descent who displayed no signs of a respiratory illness, was perceived as an infectious disease risk.
How the pendulum swings to race – casting incited irrational fear. Not long ago, I defended several dark-skinned patients from disease-free southern Africa, when a teenager complained to me about being cared for in close proximity to them, at a time when Ebola posed a prescient and global threat.
Identifying the source of a potential pandemic based on racial characteristics dehumanises us all.
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.