The death toll from COVID-19 currently stands at just over 270,000 with that number sure to rise substantially before the pandemic is finally over. But perhaps an even more horrifying fallout from the pandemic is the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” it’s leaving in its wake, according to United Nations chief António Guterres.
And the sad thing is, humanity has no one but ourselves to blame for that.
As Guterres notes (via NBCDFW) since the pandemic began raging across the world, virtually no group has been free from persecution relating to it. “Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus—and then denied access to medical treatment,” Guterres points out. Meanwhile, “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”
At the same time, “journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers, and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs,” he noted, while “with older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable.”
In all, Guterres says humanity’s reaction to the pandemic has seen “disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.”
Given all the examples Guterres gives of how horrible we can be to one another in the time of our greatest crisis, no wonder we need reminders that humanity is actually worth saving.
Still, reminders aren’t enough. We need to take bolder actions, Guterres says. For starters, he asks “everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity, and take every opportunity to spread kindness.” He also says that media companies—social media companies, in particular—need to step up and take more aggressive action to “remove racist, misogynist, and other harmful content” surrounding the pandemic.
All a virus wants to do is replicate. It has no additional objective or aim to cause social strife across the world. It’s us—via the way we react toward others during a time we’re all rightfully scared—who choose to cause that additional damage. And it’s damage that can and should be avoided because we’re all in this together.
As Guterres points out, “COVID-19 does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe, or about any other distinction. We need every ounce of solidarity to tackle it together.”
#COVID19 does not care who we are, where we live, or what we believe.
Yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.
That’s why I’m appealing for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally. pic.twitter.com/ojh957xhQq
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 8, 2020