No room for the blame game during the COVID-19 pandemic
At times when individuals and society as a whole feel out of control, isolated and fearful, we are often looking for someone to blame.
One need only look at the history of the 1930s, when one of the most extreme forms of the “blame game” took place. Hitler and the Nazi Party blamed Jews, disabled people, Roma and Sinti, and those deemed “undesirable” for the terrible economic, political and social challenges facing Germany.
Most of the citizens of Nazi Germany were looking for a scapegoat, a justification for their fear and uncertain future. They remained silent as they witnessed the persecution and discrimination of their neighbors ostracized and dehumanized by the power of hate speech and rhetoric.
In our current world, threats to health and safety from the pandemic, job losses, economic tragedy, canceled events, ‘refuge in place’ orders and palpable unease create another ‘ blame game ”and a backlash against Asian Americans and Jews.
Judy Chu, D-Calif., Confirmed “at least 1,000 reported hate crime incidents against Asian Americans” after the pandemic arrived in the United States.
“In recent weeks, there has been a wave of messages indicating that Jews and / or Israel have fabricated or spread the coronavirus to advance their global control. This trope dates back to at least the 14th century, when Jews were accused of poisoning wells in order to spread the bubonic plague, ”The Anti-Defamation League said in a recent publication.
A story of national public radio on March 4 When xenophobia spreads like a virus, asked Asian Americans to share their experiences of pandemic-related discrimination. The result was an outpouring of unprecedented stories. “Judging by the volume of emails, comments and tweets we have received in response,” NPR reported, “the harassment has been intense for Asian Americans across the country – regardless of ethnicity, place or age “.
From this report:
“After a while, she said, he confronted her squarely and said, ‘Get out of here. Return to China. I don’t want your swine flu here. A week later, on a Muni train in San Francisco, another man shouted the same thing at him – “Go back to China” – and even threatened to shoot him.
Some social media users are sharing posts and memes on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit linking all Chinese and people of Chinese descent to the virus and implying that they should be feared because of their ethnicity.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a group that works to prevent and document hate crime incidents against Asian Americans, has started tracking these more and more frequent events. The Anti-Defamation League also documents the evolution of the coronavirus crisis raising anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes, detailing the new messages and how old age prejudices are repackaged to fit this pandemic. For example, some accuse Jews of deliberately spreading the virus, and other anti-Semites have portrayed Jews as a virus, calling them evil and something that needs to be “cured.”
We cannot let these feelings take hold. We cannot allow our collective fear to take precedence over fundamental respect for our neighbors and accelerate the “blame game”. As Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently said, this disease “reminds us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, profession or fame. This disease treats us all equally.
And while history has taught us about the danger of “fading”, it has also shown us the power of kindness and what is possible when we raise our voices in support of our fellow human beings.
Now is the time to support each other and come together as we all experience varying degrees of fear, isolation and a sense of loss during this pandemic. It’s time to reconnect with family and friends (virtually!), Take a deep breath, and wait for life to return to a new normal.
Marcy L. Larson is vice president of marketing, communications, and business development at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
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