Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
Asians in France are outraged after reportedly experiencing a surge in racism following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
While similar reports are emerging of a surge in anti-Asian racism in the UK, French Asians have taken to social media to vent their anger, with the hashtag ‘JeNeSuisPasUnVirus’ (‘IAmNotAVirus’) currently trending.
The trend appears to have started after a French daily called Le Courrier Picard on Sunday published a print headline reading “YELLOW ALERT” (‘ALERTE JAUNE’) and an online version reading “New yellow peril?” (‘Nouveau Peril Jaune’), both featuring a photograph of an Asian-looking woman with her mouth covered.
The publication has since apologised after triggering outrage from social media users. Since then, the JeNeSuisPasUnVirus hashtag has been trending in France.
The general director of the International league against racism and antisemitism (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisemitisme; Licra), Stephane Nivet, told French newspaper L’Express: “Let’s imagine for one second that the virus came from Africa, no newspaper would have dared led with ‘Black alert’.”
He added: “The fact that a newspaper published such a cover without realising that there was a problem proves that there is a problem.”
The “yellow peril” expression used by the paper dates back to the 19th Century and was popularised by sociologist Jacques Novicow in 1897 in his book of the same name to explain “the fears already linked to the massive influx of workers, numerous, underpaid but well educated.”
He added: “It is this type of fear that is developing against the Asian population.”
One of the main social media posts picked up by French media is the one by OrpheoNegra who reposted a message with the caption: “I share the text and the hashtag created by an adopted friend who does not want her name mentioned in order to avoid the harassment and anti-Asian racism that she denounces.”
The message they reposted appears to originate on Facebook, posted by a ‘Huyen Tran’, who said she was the target of racist abuse and jokes on a bus, with a group of young girls speaking loud enough for her to hear.
One of them reportedly said: “What do you call Coronavirus patients?”
And another reportedly replied: “The Chinese, no?”
In her lengthy post, ‘Huyen Tran’ says “I am not Chinese, but this makes me really sad.
“But what I find absurd is the lightness with which they speak of a disease of which they know nothing.
“You should understand that only people who were in China less than 14 days ago are isolated so that their condition can be monitored.
“Otherwise, no contact with Asians can cause you illness. Nice evening everyone (except racists, f*ck you).”
Other social media users were also outraged, with the following being but a short selection.
‘butchinelle’ said: “I was on my way to work yesterday and I overheard two guys saying ‘Watch out a Chinese girl is coming our way’ first of all I’m Vietnamese, second of all f-u #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” (sic)
And ‘Wellhein’ said: “First of all, all Asian are not Chinese, second all Chinese are not infected with the virus. Stop asking if we’re dangerous if we cough while all the people around us are doing so. ~ thanks #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” (sic)
While ‘Hajuunie’ said: “All Asian are NOT Chinese, and all Asian do NOT have the coronavirus, f*ck off. I really hate to open Twitter to see hashtags like these being in trends. #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” (sic)
And ‘ChengwangL’ said (in French): “I am Chinese. But I am not a virus!! I know everyone is afraid of the virus, but stop the prejudice, please.”
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