The Overwhelming Racism Of COVID Coverage

Western media cannot write western failure

The NYTimes published a bunch of photos of Thailand doing things right and titled it No One Knows What Thailand Is Doing Right. Because racism.

Thailand worked hard and fought back COVID-19 with public health. Instead of seeing that, however, the NYTimes asked if it was something in their blood. We’re talking about oriental blood magic, in 2020. I’m serious:

Is there a genetic component in which the immune systems of Thais and others in the Mekong River region are more resistant to the coronavirus? Or is it some alchemy of all these factors that has insulated this country of 70 million people? (NYT)

This is literal racism. Instead of looking what Thai people did, they’re asking if it’s something in their veins. Because Thai people couldn’t possibly just be competent, it must be alchemy. This sort of coverage is awful, and it’s endemic. Recently the NYPost (dumpster fire) said: Scientists can’t explain puzzling lack of coronavirus outbreaks in Africa. Well no, they can, it’s bog standard public health. They have excellent scientists in Africa, you know, if you would ever let them get a visa for conferences.

This is just racism, and western coverage is almost all like this. They attribute agency to rich/white nations like Germany or New Zealand but luck to anyone poorer or dark. And it’s just not true. Poorer nations have done better than the rich because they had robust public health responses. Because they worked together. Because they reacted early. These are all lessons worth learning, but the west is unable to learn them because they’re simply too racist to see.

For once this racism isn’t killing us in the Dirty South. We’re living. This time it’s killing you.

The Real World

When the NYTimes or western media talks about the world, they’re not talking about the world. They’re talking about white people or, at a stretch, the rich.

For example, David Leonhardt imagines the world in 2022… and only talks about America. Some more generous writers include Europe in the world, and thus dub Europe’s COVID response excellent. But it’s not. It’s a burning trash can next to a dumpster fire, good only in comparison. The rest of the world is actually eliminating or suppressing this thing, but you can’t see that if you only see white.

The white world, of course, stretches to New Zealand, and there they have found their great white hope. But that’s where the world ends. Europe, here be dragons, then New Zealand.

At a stretch, white people can also see money, so they might extend the world to South Korea, Japan, UAE. But that’s it. That’s the end of the world. People are either white, rich, or they don’t exist.

This, however, is not the world. Just open a map. The world is full of people and the humans you ignore are actually a majority. We are human, we exist, and, stubbornly, competently, brilliantly; we persist. Western media is literally missing most of the world because they’re so structurally racist and that means they’re missing most information as well. They’re missing the real story of COVID-19.

The Real Story

The real story is that ‘developing’ nations have done remarkably better at fighting COVID-19 than the rich and white. The real story starts precisely where the western map ends. Here be dragons. We be dragons.

The real story is that places like Vietnam and Mongolia have completely kicked COVID-19’s ass. The real story is that places like Rwanda and Ghana have innovated and survived. There are countless stories like this — from Sri Lanka to Trinidad & Tobago, but you wouldn’t know because we’re not rich or white. But you should know. Because we’re right. This information could save your life.

Instead, however, the western media anoints white Germany a COVID leader, despite having outbreak the size of Iraq’s. They should be looking at Vietnam. Vietnam has the same population, much less wealth and has had a dramatically better response. Nearly 10,000 people have died in Germany, compared to 35 in Vietnam. Every two days Germany has as many cases as Vietnam did total. What are you learning here? To feel good about your race while dying? Why not learn from the best?

The other great white darling is New Zealand, which has had an excellent response, but is also the most remote place on earth. Meanwhile there are places which shared a land border with China — like Mongolia — that nonetheless survived, and densely populated nations in Africa, like Ghana, or Senegal, or Rwanda that all did well. How? You don’t know, you’re like ‘wait, what if we try a white woman’. You’re missing the point.

Worst, countless column pixels have been devoted to abject failures like Sweden, as if they’re somehow a model. A model of what? Killing your people, economy and reputation at the same time? Real models in the Caribbean or Africa are ignored while people debate whether everyone should just get the disease. Honestly, WTF is wrong with you people? Just get the disease? When poor nations like mine have just eliminated it and moved on? There is a real story happening across the world which you can’t see, because you define the world so narrowly.

The World Is The World

In the Dirty South, we are constantly excluded from the world via euphemism. You talk about ‘developed’ world or the ‘industrialized’ world or ‘advanced’ nations. But what does that mean? How developed are you if you don’t have public health? How industrialized are you if you cannot distribute tests and PPE? How advanced are you if your people won’t even wear a mask?

These words are now just naked euphemisms for rich and white. They’re codewords for racism and classism. ‘Advanced’ and ‘developed’ have been obliterated by COVID-19 and if you don’t see that, COVID will happily obliterate you.

We are advanced. We are developed. We are the world.

For your own health, see us. Learn about how early, aggressive action in Mongolia prevented them from having any local transmission at all. Learn about how Ghana used pooled testing to make the most of scarce resources. Learn how Sri Lanka shut down completely for two months with just 100 cases, and is now completely normal.

I understand you’re used to seeing us as disaster areas, but this has made us disaster masters. Poor nations have almost uniformly reacted quickly, decisively and survived. We have a lot to show you, if you could take the racist scales from your eyes.

The racism of COVID coverage is overwhelming, and for once it’s not overwhelming us. We’re fine. My kids are in school. We’re having birthday parties. We’re living. This time, your racism is overwhelming you.

For a sense of the story behind this story, you can check out this from my Dirty South newsletter:

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. indi@indi.ca. Videos: tiny.cc/indication and podcast: anchor.fm/indication. patreon.com/indication

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