Coronavirus: Edinburgh must stand up to any racists who try to sow division – Steve Carodwnie

Edinburgh has a long history of embracing people from different cultures and the coronavirus outbreak will not change that, writes Steve Cardownie.

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 6:00 am
This photo taken on March 6, 2020 shows medical staff waiting outside rooms at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. - China on March 7 reported 28 new deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, bringing the nationwide toll to 3,070. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) which originated in the city of Wuhan, China, last December has predictably led to an increase in racism against Chinese people and people of south-east Asian descent across the world. Incidents have not just been restricted to individual acts but have also included institutions.

A French newspaper showed an Asian woman wearing a mask on its front page along with the caption “Yellow Alert”. It also featured an editorial titled “A New Yellow Peril” prompting French Asians to start the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus which translates to “I am not a virus”.

Reports of a significant increase in harassment and violent attacks towards people of certain Asian origins are numerous with some children in particular being subjected to racist abuse.

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A man sells breakfast to nurses behind a makeshift barricade built to control entry and exit to a residential compound in Wuhan, China (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

In Germany, the football club RB Leipzig turned away 20 Japanese fans from a game amid coronavirus fears. In Italy, a music conservatory suspended lessons for all Asian students due to the epidemic even though most of them were second-generation immigrants.

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Dozens of Chinese stores have been vandalised and earlier this month a Japanese restaurant was subjected to an arson attack by a gang of teenagers who abused the owners, calling them carriers of the virus.

In The Netherlands, Chinese students living in a university dormitory had their floor vandalised including a Chinese flag being torn down and shredded, a lift covered with faeces and urine and the walls daubed with insults written in English saying “die Chinese” and “Chinese corona.”

Here in the UK, Spurs footballer Dele Ali posted a video on Snapchat where he was wearing a facemask and seemed to mock an Asian man sitting near him in Dubai about the virus outbreak which he later apologised for and deleted.

In Solihull, a woman of Chinese origin was allegedly racially abused and told to “take your effin’ coronavirus back home” and when an Indian-origin woman tried to intervene on her behalf she was beaten up and hospitalised.

There are many more examples of racist comments and incidents directed towards people perceived to be of Chinese origin (too many to mention) but what is evident throughout many countries is that anti-Chinese racist abuse is on the increase following the coronavirus outbreak and that physical attacks are also on an upwards spiral.

However there are those who have been trying their best to tackle this trend head on and defy the racists who would seek to generate and foster division within society.

There have been public voices raised and efforts have been made to counter the abuse that is all too evident in some quarters.

Whilst I have no knowledge of any such racist incidents in Edinburgh, I could guess that we are not immune to this coronavirus-linked racism and would hope that if it is witnessed it would be challenged by the overwhelming majority of fair-minded people of this city.

Edinburgh is well renowned for welcoming people from out-with these shores and the city has embraced many cultures throughout the centuries of its existence and it will take more than a viral epidemic to divert us from that well-trodden path.