When the fear is worse than the disease
Are you scared of the corona virus if so what exactly are you scared of why. How does that fear show up in your life right? You do anything differently or do you just worry. Even if you're not really afraid how do you feel when you see somebody a couple of seats over from me on the bus where amass. What if they start coughing? And you see the latest numbers of cases and deaths in China and other countries. Who are what you blame why? This is all psychology but it is important because fear makes otherwise rational people irrational and it gives the ugliest impulses that people can have an opportunity to take the wheel and for the worst of us. It's not even even here. It's just an excuse. So how can we fight. The other. Viral infection at candidate is facing the one that is so far harming a lot more more people than a disease. That's almost exclusively on the other side of the world Jordan Heathrow this is the big story. Evelyn Kwong a digital producer at the Toronto Star. She also writes a weekly column about social media. Hello Hi how are you. I'm doing all right Before we start because we're going to talk about the real impact of the corona virus and Canada before we do that to give us some perspective. Can you give us an update. It is Monday afternoon as we're talking What is the scope of this worldwide? And what's the scope of it in Canada so right now in Canada as of Monday we have four cases in Canada One and BBC two in Toronto and one in London The latest one was the woman in London and she's in her twenties apparently because she's younger. She had like a you know the immune system is a little bit better. She's actually just home quarantine so they're think those cases are ones they can tackle and that could be solved by the Canadian health system. So actually here. It's not a crazy or like fearful kind of Epidemic or anything. That's happening right now. That's what we're hearing from the public health officials so basically. It's not something that we need to worry about that much in Canada and they didn't really have to suspend any flights or anything but Air Canada just one on their own to make their own decisions to suspend plates for a month from Beijing and Shanghai but they said that's on their own accord The world there are there have been three hundred sixty one deaths as has of Monday afternoon mostly from China and one being the first out of country one being from in the Philippines a forty four year old man just recently they add I think last last week they declared it a Global health emergency only for the reason that countries that didn't have as good as a health system as China wouldn't be able to handle that kind of situation so I think they're kind of seeing that with the person in the Philippines who just passed away. I think that was just on Saturday too. So it's interesting because you said that in Canada we don't have of a crazed fearful epidemic. We definitely do not and our officials are telling that straight to us to use the word fearful and there is fear here there are definitely is fear because a whole different thing. That really reminds me of the two thousand and three SARS situation. Why don't we start with that? Because I should note that you wrote your column on this you also so Spoken about it a lot on twitter. And it's why we wanted to talk with you so start with that. What do you remember about that experience as an Asian woman in Candida well? At that time I was only in grade three but you already feel that and I feel that when you're in when you're that young still to internalize that sort of every day kind of raises them. Which which does happen you know like before the sourcing people would ask me weird questions like if I ate dog but then in two thousand and three it would become this whole different thing where people friends ends of mind would actually start moving across the room and not sitting with me for lunch or really questioning what I was eating and it could be just something normal? Tofu and is Asian food. Because that's what my mom made a home right so it would just be something that I felt really embarrassed about and not understanding my identity fully. I would throw those launches out and not eat them because I just felt so so shameful of having them in front of me and just people surrounding me and other than my own experience I would see my mom kind of. She doesn't have like she can speak English but I think when she has to defend herself in that situation she someone who immigrated here from Hong Kong. It's not her first language so I didn't really know how to defend her being that young and she kind of just told me like let's just kind of void. Everybody if we can you know wanting to be invisible and when you started to hear the news of the Krona Virus Three weeks ago. It's out of China. Was your first thought I was already. I knew there was a huge backlash. GonNa come through not like not just in Canada but America in other Western countries. I I knew that it was coming and it was something that I think tweeted a long time ago even before we had one case here. I'm like I can't not I can't wait but I'm like I just know this is going to happen or something and that totally. Julio did take place as well and as much as we try to you know make sure the misinformation of like you know. Don't go to Chinatown like all that is not real and all. That doesn't need to be sad ed or it's actually not scientifically proven but to this day. We're seeing a lot of implications not just like for personal experience and of course that's important but a lot of small businesses in Chinatown in a town or in Markham to places where there's predominantly a Chinese community. They're feeling crazy impacts from this. Give me some examples so one example is that I mean. I don't know if everyone one knows what six buzzes but six buzzes kind of like I would say a Social Media News conglomerate thing that's four young people and as much as it is great. That young people have something thanks to look forward to. They're spending a lot of misinformation so one example is that they took a photo they were sent before took a photo of this noodle shop in Markham called Wuhan Noodle much is obviously horrified like for most people seeing that it's still going to trigger them to feel type of way. They put it on their instagram. They have one point four million followers and by no means no science behind it just saying like tag someone you would want to eat here or like tag the person that should eat here implicating like you're kind of finding one person you wanNA Wish some harm by eating this place but really when we we had a reporter go out from Toronto DOT COM which is kind of sister paper they went out and spoke to the owner and and they said they've lost two thirds of their business. which is I mean? That's just really sad for someone who said they came to Canada with the dream of opening their little business and you know making their life year. Now they're really feeling the repercussions which are not scientifically based at all. Like if you eat there is not going to change things. They don't have that soup and I think that was the first line that came out of that article. It was a quote by them. Saying we don't have perhaps soup we don't serve that so it's like all the stuff that you're the justify which kind of seems weird when you're in Canada and a lot of Asian people in Asian Jasper. Don't don't eat those sort of things but it's like now. We ought to kind of defend ourselves in that way. Can you explain a little bit about the role that Stereotypes from Western folks around Asian Food in Asian culture. In general play in this This treatment one hundred percent so it started back even like from inception of our country With the Chinese head taxes which basically started because they brought Chinese laborers from China and just use them as kind of like workers for the railroad and other things and if some of them mm died they'd just bring more of such a punishment or something like that and to deter them from bringing their own families to Canada. Because it didn't want Chinese people here they would put a fifty dollar head talks on them. So it's kind of like that kind of started that whole thing and it's been something that has happened in all Western countries but it's kind of overall fear or mystery around Chinese Chinese people or Asian people in general and then when the food starting cub started coming here and America's Wall N. in Canada. I believe there's a New York Times review that in in the sixties Caesar seventies that said Oh. MSG is really bad for you and also Chinese restaurants are really dirty. And that's where the whole notion came from you can obviously find. Videos goes of people eating different foods and different cultures. And that's all they know and of course. I wish that there was a way to show the different health implications of all these things but when it comes to that even to this day people still have that stereotype of you know. Do you guys eat dogs. Like I was literally asa question two years ago by a stranger. And it's like very strange to hear obviously for me But even for anybody because not many people do that and it's just like because you've seen one video on social media now you're going to expand it and say every Asian person does that. It's it's kind of sad so there's always been a fear around Asian food and this whole idea that the things that Asian people aren't really civilized and and gross. Honestly this is gonNA GONNA sound like an extremely white question of meat asks. But when you're speaking with other folks in the Chinese community and you talk about this virus and what you're experiencing in Toronto around it. What are those conversations like there? I mean it's really disheartening. And you can actually see it on social media the good thing about the fact act that we have social media now is that we have people telling their stories you know. Hey my mom just got yelled at by a person who's in a car saying you're infected or like different stories or is that people are sharing about what's happening in the situation. It kind of brings a human lens like how can you really tell someone how sad they felt about this or that because it shows you that this place can be crazy easy like we all like to talk about Canada's sometimes as a multicultural blanket and that's all it is but really there are things that happened day-to-day that and this is not just a just because of krona's ars but it's only elevated because of that so speaking to them I think what I've learned from them and what we have kind of come to realize that we kinda need to share experiences so staring that sorry experience of mine was something that people were like. Wow I can't believe that people who are Kinda confused about how this fearmongering really works. It was just like hey I'm a Girl was born in. Canada doesn't didn't travel anywhere but still I had to throw my lunches because I felt so embarrassed to be part of that or even linked to that asianise that I had so so I think right now all we wanna do is step up and mostly. It's it's angry. People are angry in the Chinese community. People are sad but the way to fight it is with also just sharing their own stories and also hoping allies step in as well. What do I need to do? I feel like there's a lot of misinformation and I wouldn't want I wouldn't wish wish it on anyone to just scroll all through twitter and report stuff and fight people. I think that doesn't work at all. I think one thing is just take it off social media and talk to someone in that community. It doesn't necessarily have to be you. Of course. The Chinese community is really reeling from this but also Asian communities are are as well because they are often mistaken as being Chinese. anyways doesn't like no one really kind of looks beyond the fact that you could look Asian and asks you where you're from so I think it's about speaking with someone in that community and understanding a human level of like. Hey what's going on. I wonder how you feel feel I think that would really change your mind and before for some people who are really active on twitter and just want to give their thoughts and just put their thoughts out there. I think it's good to just reevaluate and check with someone and who's going. Maybe he's probably going through it. You spend an awful lot of time on social media. The point of your column in the Star. was that when something like this happens it makes it worse.