As the coronavirus, and the fear of infection spread globally, incidents of race-motivated hate crimes are on the rise in Edinburgh, many of which remain unreported. On 2nd February, a student at Edinburgh College of Art encountered a mother and her two children on his way home. The mother told her children to yell at him: “Virus! Virus!” Three weeks later, on 21st February, two doctoral students in psychology and classics at the University of Edinburgh, while enjoying coffee with friends were threatened and insulted. A man rushed into a café near Old College, with his stick waving in the air, aggressively shouted at them in racist language. On 6th March, a mother and her two young kids were walking on Princes Street when a group of teenagers suddenly targeted them. One teenager told her that the coronavirus was originated from her, while another teenager filmed her reaction. What do all these targeted people have in common? They are all Asian.
These unfortunate incidents are becoming more common, and vividly portray that fear is the catalyst of ignorance that engenders hate. By directing hate toward a particular group of people, the perpetrators not only have not found a cure for the coronavirus but have revealed a deep-seated ignorance in their hearts that is more deadly than the virus itself. It is merely a matter of time when scientists will deliver a vaccine that can cure the coronavirus, but no vaccine can cure the fear, ignorance, and hatred at the heart of racism.
Racism has always caused more problems and calamities than it has solved. Stigmatising and labelling are core characteristics of racism. The former ignores the fact that individuals are distinct, even within a homogeneous society. The latter stems from laziness and thoughtlessness, with racists refusing to understand different cultures and customs. As the fear of the virus seems more potent than the disease itself, all human beings should fight against this common enemy, as opposed to each other.
Edinburgh has always celebrated diversity. Now is the time to demonstrate, not destroy, this legacy. While we do not yet have a cure for Covid-19, the solution to the hatred spread by it begins with us – treating people with respect, regardless of their race or appearance. March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Let us make it a day of celebrating our shared humanity. And apply these principles to life, every day.
Image: Wikimedia Commons