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Racism endures, especially in Covid times

Racism is one of the biggest problems we have in this world, and the fact that it can flare up because of misunderstandings and the lack of knowledge only makes it worse. Many countries around the world have had to fight racism at one point or the other, and it is through those fights that people from different walks of life, different ethnic groups and different continents can come together and take a stand towards a common cause.

Covid-19 has really brought anarchy to the world and each country had to make much-needed changes just to ensure survival. To this day it is unclear as to how or where Covid-19 really started, but China is being blamed. Numerous media reports have confirmed that the first Covid-19 symptoms were found in the United States and European cities, long before its discovery in Wuhan. The stigma that the pandemic has placed on the Chinese community, however, has had a ripple effect in terms of racism against us.

Right now, the Chinese community has become the soft target, it’s easier to blame us for the pandemic as opposed to focusing on coming together to fight Covid-19. Placing blame is the natural and the expected reaction, but that does not make it right. Discriminating, fighting, and stripping people of their dignity is never the answer. 

The South African Chinese community has suffered its fair share of racism. Despite being a part of South Africa for over 300 years, we still need to fight for recognition to this day.

We had our own struggles during apartheid which came to light during a hate speech enquiry, when witnesses gave their accounts of what it was like during the apartheid era for the Chinese community.

Yet, an exhibition at the South End museum in Port Elizabeth which contained photographic evidence of these struggles was closed and a sign erected stating that the Chinese community were not part of the apartheid era. 

Again, the Chinese community was pushed aside and their contributions went unseen, unappreciated and covered up.

Our country prides itself on its diversity but we are not doing everything in our power to protect it, the fight against racism should be fought to protect everyone and not be limited to specific ethnic groups.

Education is a powerful tool and the more people we educate about racism in our country the better. 

As the South African Chinese community, we are frequently asked if we feel that our rights are protected by the laws of our country, and our answer to this is always yes and no.

Yes, we have been antagonised and discriminated against, but that does not mean we should lose faith in our country or its people. We have a lot of faith in our country, we also contribute and would fight equally hard to ensure that South Africa sees a better tomorrow. 

South Africa is a country with a lot of possibilities, and those include the power to rise above oppression, unite as South Africans and stand together to protect each other and our values as a nation.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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Francis Lai Hong
Francis Lai Hong is an executive member of the South African Chinese Association (Gauteng)

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