A pandemic of words: The blame game on minorities

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Korhan Erdol, Pexels

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic struck fear in more than one way.

Tommy Glennon, Copy Editor

As the world holds its breath with fear of another pandemic, marginalized groups have yet to recover from the last one.

For much of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Asian people were subject to fear and violence. Hate crimes against Asian people saw an increase of 76% in 2020.

Throughout the past century, Asian people have been a commonly targeted group in regards to discriminatory nomenclature. Certain strains of the Bird Flu being dubbed the “Asian Flu” and COVID-19 as the “China Virus” incite violence against Asian people.

Within Pleasant Valley High School, a number of Asian students felt unsafe as COVID-19 emerged. Senior Leah Pim often felt targeted due to her nationality. “People began to cast blame on China and the Chinese for bringing it overseas. This created hatred, judgment, and fear,” Pim shared. “Not only did individuals like me have to deal with the fear of the virus, but now there was a fear of being harassed or outcast from society purely because of my nationality.”

While the World Health Organization eventually adopted less stigmatizing nomenclature for COVID-19, the same cannot be said for Monkeypox. 

As the virus spreads throughout a global community still recovering from COVID-19, many are questioning why non-stigmatizing nomenclature has not been carried over to Monkeypox. Commonly known as the “West African” and “Central African” virus, Monkeypox has raised serious concerns surrounding the stigma created about African people.

This stigma is incredibly misleading. 

Christian Happi, a professor of molecular biology and genomics, urges this name be changed as it portrays African people as the main perpetrators of Monkeypox. “It is well established that nearly all MPXV outbreaks in Africa prior to the 2022 outbreak have been the result of spillover from animals to humans and only rarely have there been reports of sustained human-to-human transmissions,” Happi argued.  

This is not the first time global health emergencies have been linked to marginalized groups. 

In the late 1980s, gay men were persecuted for being the primary demographic suffering from the HIV/AIDS crisis. Members of the Queer community felt that the government ignored their troubles, while other reporting being avoided by their friends and colleagues because of who they loved, an issue still prevalent today.

The WHO’s recent decision to rename the virus will hopefully stop the stigma around the black community, but concern is rising that the Queer community is the next target. As Monkeypox continues to ravage the health of gay men, a new stigma has been created. 

While public health should remain the number one priority of elected officials, this pandemic of words must be addressed with urgency.