Structural changes in the society is always preceded by a radical factor which holds the potential to alter the state of affairs drastically, unchained by the morality of good and bad. Corona virus is the factor that holds such potential in 21st century. The first case of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China in December, 2019. By 6th May, 2020 it grew to infected almost 3,595,662 people and has reached 215 country, territory region so far as per the report of World Health Organization (WHO).
The surge of this coronavirus has brought into public domain a latent disgust and prejudice against Chinese people and its culture. They are being staunchly racialized and stigmatized for proliferation of this strange virus. The racism based on such ground is being promoted in the name of national interest by the top authority of nations like the USA, UK, India, et cetera. For instance, President Donald Trump declared Covid-19 as “Chinese virus”. The hatred and fear is so deeply rooted that people who have even slight resemblance as Chinese people are also being subjected to physical and verbal assault. An incident was reported by “The Print” that a women from Manipur, India was spat on in public place and called “corona” in the nation’s capital, New Delhi. A survey launched by community group named “Asian-Austrian alliance” has received 12 report per day since 2 April, ranging from racial slurs to physical assaults based on Xenophobia. According to Asian Pacific policy and planning council (APPPC), about 650 racist attacks were reported by Asian American community in March 2020 and many case related to it from other place are also reported that shows an increasing public display of Sinophobia which has resulted in violence, prejudice, discrimination.
It is not a new sort of bigotry against Chinese people. They has long been considered as potential threat against nations that promptly pushed up only White immigration policy, like USA, France and UK et cetera. They are called as the yellow peril, uncivilized, unsuitable for citizenship in America. Fear and hatred against Chinese people was solidify through the infamous “Chinese exclusion act” legislated in the US in late 19th century. This was the first law which curved out immigration solely based on race. An Executive order numbered 9066, was also passed to convict people under suspicion as envy against mainland inhabitants.
The situation of contemporary world is similar to what unfolded after September 9/11 where Muslim become the target of world hatred, fear and prejudice. State- sponsored propaganda of Islamophobia were disseminated to manufacture consent for the ongoing “War on Terror”. But, Islamophobia is not an entirely new phenomenon in West. In the book titled “American Islamophobia: Understanding the roots and rise of fear” by Khaled Baydoun, a law professor at the university of Arkansas states, “There has always been a legal framework in place that defined Islam and Muslim identity as incompatible with Americanness”. His views are reciprocated by prominent intellectuals like Edward said and others who contest the orientalist perception of the West.
Racial discrimination, bigotry, violence which is visible in contemporary times, is molding the perception of the world towards Xenophobia, particularly Sinophobia, in the same way as it turned the world post 9/11 and gave us the Islamophobia. It is sign of cultural contention which has potential to disrupt the World order. People are becoming culturally assertive and protect against any intrusion against their identity. This has been a major factor on the rise of anti-globalization movement producing substantial criticism to static order. UK’s exit from the European Union, the surge of populist government in USA, India, France and Spain et cetera is a clear manifestation of this global trend of cultural seclusion.
Identity politics has been the norm of 21st century which seeks to assert the culture and maintain its exclusivity. In the contemporary happenings in a corona effected world, Samuel Huntington’s thesis on the clash of civilization appears to be the future reality considering the case of islamophobia in the past and Sino phobia in the present, both based on politics of hate and discrimination. It seem to be that countries are secluding themselves to make alliance based on similar cultural interest that is promoting more xenophobia. The fear of losing one’s identity has developed the need to safeguard the cultural interests at the cost of global solidarity. The racism budding in the minds of people will have great impact in the future world. It will intend to hamper the global economic functionalism and political affinity which will culminate with the sinking of the liberal immigration policies of various nations.
Saddam Hussain studies Geography and Sociology at Aligarh Muslim University. His areas of interest include social exclusionary studies and Indian politics. He tweets at @mdsaddambabu831