‘Forever Foreigners’ Or ‘The Other’ Have Been Blamed Throughout History for Viruses

Fears of disease have for centuries if not eons been used to justify xenophobia. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have heard grumblings from students, blaming the “dirty” Chinese and the “unclean” Italians for causing or spreading it. President Trump tweeted about the “Chinese virus,” though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against naming diseases after ethnicities or locations, because it stigmatizes and “others” them. Incidents have been reported in Indiana and California of Asian Americans being bullied, refused hotel rooms, and even assaulted.

“Dirty looks, deserted restaurants, bullied children — this is the reality for many Asian Americans after the outbreak of the coronavirus,” wrote Marian Lui in The Washington Post. “In the 1300s, people thought the bubonic plague came from the Jewish community; in the 1800s, typhoid was thought to be spread by the Irish; and in the 1900s, the influenza pandemic was blamed on Germans. The ‘forever foreigner’ stigma means Asian Americans are frequently associated with public health scares.”

I previously posted about how plagues and climate change in Europe created social anxiety, sparked hunts for witches who had cast spells or curses on a community. Origins of Witch Hunts? Are We Still Ferreting Out and Persecuting Witches?

I have also posted about the history of immigration in America, how Italians and Chinese faced egregious discrimination in the 19th century.


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