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‘You Better Keep Your Mouth Shut If You Have Nothing Good To Say’


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According to her Facebook profile, Helen Chen is student of Australian National University (ANU), and is currently based in Canberra. Like many young people her age, she reposts videos of cats doing cute things, some memes, and photos of herself with friends.

After a year away from family, she visited Wuhan for the Chinese New Year, a highly anticipated and celebrated occasion in Chinese culture to be with family. The coronavirus outbreak has left her stranded in the province, unable to return back to Australia to resume university. As distressful as that situation is, there was something else on her mind that she felt she had to address.

“I’m one of the millions in Wuhan right now who is affected by this,” Chen started in a Facebook post published on Jan. 26, “It is heartbreaking to see comments here saying how we deserve it.”

At the time this article was being written, Chen’s original post had been shared by over 30,000 users, and had over 45,000 reactions. The comments are a mix of kind words of support, and others that continued to blame “your [her] people” with expletives and harsh language from people around the world, including our Filipino countrymen.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. The coronavirus is now recognized as the etiologic agent of the 2003 SARS outbreak. Photo fromCenters for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. The coronavirus is now recognized as the etiologic agent of the 2003 SARS outbreak. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

“The Coronavirus is taking away the only time of the year that families get to reunite,” Chen continued in her post, “These selfish exotic traders have taken away precious family time from all these people who are literally putting their lives in danger to help others, and yet on the Internet, these unsung heroes are being lumped together with them, criticized, condemned, and humiliated. It’s really heartbreaking. Those people don’t deserve any of it.”

The examples she mentions, taken from her firsthand account, are the healthcare professionals voluntarily working around the clock and risking their lives, the hotels around are offering free accommodation to them, stores providing free hot meals, the construction workers rushing to build new facilities so they can tend to the ill, and such.

“I hope I’m not coming off as playing the victim. I’m merely trying to tell my side of the story. And I’m sorry the virus has now spread to other countries. I truly am very sorry,” Chen ends her post, “But not all Chinese people are bad.”

Helen Chen

Facebook user and author of the post, Helen Chen

While the Philippines has erupted in, reasonable, fear and concern over the virus, that does not and should not mean we can forget about empathy and common human decency. It should be in the face of adversity that people, no matter their race, ethnicity, age, gender, or other identifying factors, come together to support each other, and especially the victims.

And yet, this recent test has brought out the worst in some people, who may hide in the comfort of social media to post and comment things that perpetuate derogatory stereotypes and involve some underlying racism against our fellow humans. With the thousands of confirmed cases of the virus, the majority are in China, with families worried about their ill loved ones, or have lost them during a time of celebration. But some commenters say they don’t care about “their” New Year.

If there is any silver lining to the words of hate, is that it engages others to react, calling out negative attitude and racist remarks.

“Dear fellow Filipinos,” commented one Facebook user, “You better keep your mouth shut if you have nothing good to say.”

Chen followed up with a post on Jan. 28, writing, “When I wrote my first post, I was just angry at the generalization and cruelty directed at anyone who’s Chinese. […] I didn’t think many people would care about what I had to say. But the attention it gained indicates otherwise. I think if I could change the opinion of only one person, or perhaps not even change their opinion but just inform them about something they wouldn’t have been otherwise be aware of, I’d be really happy.”

Click here to read the entire post.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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