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Racism in the 21st Century: Are we Suffering from Two Viruses?

What is racism and the rise of it during COVID 19

Racism: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

As we headed into lockdown during last year, there have been a growing amount of hate crimes, leading to multiple deaths, prejudice and discrimination against minority groups. With this rise, 55% of ethnic minorities said racism had stayed the same or got worse during their lifetime. Specifically in the UK, 34% think racism has worsened in Britain over the years and 30% see no change. As communities grow and become more diverse around the world,  you would think that this would result in change and development. 

However, with the rise of hate crimes and continued institutional racism, it brings me to question whether we as humans are suffering from two viruses during COVID 19. Pope Francis commented on how racism is rising ‘likening it to a virus that lurks in waiting and only emerges and show that our supposed progress is not as real or definitive as people think’. It really is concerning to believe that there has been little to no change over the years, and that there is even a growing amount of hate crimes against ethnic and minority groups.

Despite this, there has been a growing amount of solidarity towards these communities facing discrimination and prejudice, bringing movements and protests of change, demanding that enough is enough. We do not tolerate or accept these hate crimes on one another and now is the desperate time for change. 

Movements and Protests wanting change

person holding brown wooden welcome to the beach signage

Last year, the number of deaths resulting from police brutality in the US were highlighted, particularly following the death of George Floyd. This sparked Black Lives Matter movements and protests globally. This movement bought attention to the many black lives that are lost, due to the failure of the criminal justice system to truly protect people. The movement showed solidarity between communities, remembering the lives lost, and demanding change. This movement also bought attention to the lack of, and failure to, educate individuals about racism, hate crimes and historic atrocities committed against minority groups. While many have used social media to spread awareness and educate others to bring about change, there is still a long way to go.

Stop Asian Hate was another movement demanding change and progression from hate crimes and discrimination committed against Asians. There has always been some prejudice and discrimination towards the Asian community, however, COVID 19 resulted in an increasing amount of hate crimes and, sadly, deaths. Since the outbreak, Asians and people of Asian descent have been targets of derogatory language from media reports and statements by politicians, with social media also adding to the hate speech, spreading extensively.  This is all due lack of education, cultural appropriation and discrimination because of the way people look or behave. The shameful increase in hate crimes demonstrates just how important movements like Stop Asian Hate are for raising awareness regarding the necessary need for change.

The double standards in the system, government and media

Historically, marginalised communities of black, indigenous and people of colour have been fighting to take control over definitions of who we are, for it to be made difficult and questioned by the media and the system.

Recently in Atlanta, a shooting took place which resulted in eight deaths and numerous people injured, sparking public anger which was intensified by the failure of the media to outright call it what was – a hate crime and terrorist attack. Atlanta police considered labelling it a hate crime, when, arguably, it should not even be something to ‘consider’ to begin with. Captain Jay Baker told reporters that the attacker was ‘pretty fed up, end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did’. Is this a justifiable excuse and a good enough reason to commit a hate crime? When other people have a bad day, they do not commit hate crimes and so how can this be used to excuse this behaviour. Why is it so hard to label this attacker a terrorist, and the attack a hate crime. Why are white people never terrorists? How is it that when POC commit such things, it is so easy for them to be labelled but with others not?

Within the song Black by Dave, some lyrics address these double standards and shows the exact representation of society and media. ‘Kid dies, the blacker the killer, the sweeter the news’.

With the increased level of hate crimes taking place, it begs the question: is COVID the only virus or is it also our prejudice against each other, fuelling racism? I think we all have the responsibility to support, love and protect each other and that we should advocate  to create a better society, but what steps should we take? We should always educate, protect and hold individuals accountable. The government and media must actively condemn these crimes and acts. If we fail to do this and continue to tolerate and stay silent, then this will allow hate crimes to continue at an alarming rate and will cause future repercussions.

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