The pandemic leads to attacks on foreigners and strangers

Throughout history it is clear that when disease spreads, xenophobia is rarely left far behind. In the 14th century, Jewish citizens were blamed for the spread of the plague and accused of ‘poisoning’ water supplies (Markel, 1999). In San Francisco, following panic surrounding a local smallpox outbreak, The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was created. This Act not only prevented Chinese immigration, but also forced vaccination of Chinese residents without epidemiological rationale. Spread of Ebola virus lead to a rise in anti-African racism in European communities

The West historically saw trade from non-Western parts of the world as a potential source of disease, with ‘foreigners’ becoming associated with ideas of ‘contagiousness’ and ‘infectiousness’. This kind of rhetoric is also perpetuated by world leaders, such as President Trump when he proclaimed that ’tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border’ in 2015. [This was written in 2020, before the 2020-2021 wave of migrants at the Mexican border and alarms about migrants bringing COVID into the U.S.]

From here.

And this, from Pew Research:

The coronavirus pandemic has increased social divisions across many of the publics surveyed. A median of 61% across all 17 advanced economies say they are now more divided than before the outbreak, while 34% feel more united.

Sentiments are particularly negative in the U.S.: 88% of Americans say they are more divided than before the pandemic, the highest share to hold this view across all places polled. A majority of Canadians also say their country is more divided.

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