Diversity and inclusion amid the pandemic
To the editor:
The COVID-19 virus is a threat to the health of citizens in the United States and worldwide. The states and guarantors of public health and safety are forced to take unprecedented drastic measures with little time for consultations. It is important to act quickly to slow down the spreading of the virus and to save lives. It is unfortunate to see a decline in tolerance in a society strain. Fighting a virus should not pose a threat to minorities and marginalized communities, and should be based on the principles of non-discrimination, diversity and inclusion.
We keep hearing, “We are in this together.” Yet some communities have been the target of hatred or have been totally forgotten. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. COVID-19 is not a “Chinese virus.” In the past two months, people who are perceived or known to be of Chinese or other East Asian origin have been the target of racist and xenophobic attacks linked to the virus. On the internet and social media, expressions of racism and xenophobia related to COVID-19 include harassment, hate speech, the proliferation of discriminatory stereotypes and conspiracy theories. These attacks ranged from hateful insults to denial of service to brutal acts of violence. This is unacceptable, inadmissible, and it goes against human rights. We are better than that. It is therefore very important that we are careful in the language we use, both online and in person, and be respectful. Be an “up-stander” and discourage others from engaging in such behavior.
As I am watching the news daily, I see many reporters wearing masks on TV. Face masks are spreading as a coronavirus mitigation measure. However, it is leaving out a large population: the deaf and hard of hearing. Also, elderly people increasingly experience hearing loss. English not being my first language, I often watch people’s lips when they are talking. There are special masks for the hard of hearing, but 99% of the population do not have them. So please stay safe, but be considerate. If someone tells you they can’t understand you, lower your mask so that they can read your lips, but keep the 6-foot safety distance. Remember to respect all cultures and diverse communities. Let’s be in this TOGETHER.
Professor Annie Rochon
Chair of the Paul Smith’s College Global Diversity and Inclusion Council