COVID-19 Xenophobia Reaches St. Thomas

A painting misrepresenting the Chinese flag was seen on St. Thomas earlier this week. (Source photo by Kyle Murphy)

One negative byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic is xenophobia, and on Tuesday a new painting was seen in a visible area on St. Thomas falsely suggesting the virus can be blamed on China.

Xenophobia is defined as dislike or prejudice against people from other countries.

The painting sighted on Tuesday was a piece of graffiti by the hairpin turn on Mafolie where politicians commonly put up campaign billboards. It is a highly-trafficked and visible area. The painting depicted a red rectangle containing, instead of the stars of the Chinese flag, viruses. Underneath the rectangle, it read “Made in China.”

By Thursday, much of the painting had been painted over.

On March 23, the New York Times editorial board wrote, “Disease and prejudice have long gone hand in hand. We can do better in 2020.”

After multiple occurrences across the world of xenophobic attacks, Miri Song, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, told Time Magazine in March that, “Whenever there’s some kind of major incident with global or regional implications, and as soon as you can identify it in relation to some racial ‘other,’ particularly in predominantly white, multiethnic societies like England or the U.S., I think it’s very easy for people to use a very small excuse to start scapegoating on the basis of their appearance.”

One source of misguided hatred, and a common misconception about the virus, is that it was man-made in a laboratory in China, something scientists have continuously debunked.

Researchers at Cambridge University have formulated a theory that it is possible the virus did not originate in China after all. Peter Forster, a researcher at Cambridge, told U.S News & World Report, “This idea that the Wuhan seafood market is the origin is actually not clear cut.” Forster’s research indicates there is a 95 percent chance that the virus began spreading nearly a year ago on Sept. 19, 2019, 73 days before the first case was recorded.