Encountering the Other: SARS, Public Health, and Race Relations

By Zheng, Da | Americana : The Journal of American Popular Culture, 1900 to Present; Hollywood, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Encountering the Other: SARS, Public Health, and Race Relations


Zheng, Da, Americana : The Journal of American Popular Culture, 1900 to Present; Hollywood


In spring 2003, when scientists were scrambling to search for the causative pathogen and mode of transmission of SARS, the public was tormented with anxiety and fear which in some cases fermented xenophobia and created racial and ethnic tension.

On an MIT website, an insidious April fool's hoax surfaced, warning of infected employees at a restaurant in Boston's Chinatown. The rumor spread quickly by mouth and email that there was widespread contagion in the area. Meanwhile, in New York City, a healthy Vietnamese owner of a Chinese restaurant was bombarded with consolatory phone calls, online postings, and the local newsprint about his own death caused by SARS. Needless to say, these hoaxes and rumors swirled and swept like hurricanes; as a result, businesses in both communities suffered a tremendous blow from the "unfounded blather" (Schram). Across the nation, anxiety and fear, generated by the news about the invisible and indeterminate contagion of the epidemic, were visible on the streets and corners of Chinatown communities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia as well as in Boston and New York. Restaurants lost their clientele, and tourists stayed shy of the districts. Wedding banquets were cancelled, and the crowded Chinatown streets suddenly appeared deserted (Hopkins). As David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate, commented in The Wall Street Journal on April 28, "Just as the media recently gave us a . . . particularly intimate experience of war, we're now getting a new and particularly fearsome experience of a public-health crisis with SARS - in which a media-transmitted epidemic of concern for personal safety outpaces the risk to public health of the actual virus" (qtd. in Pierce 20).

Needless to say, the public soon discovered that the "epidemic" in those areas had been a hoax, and the businesses slowly resumed their former momentum. However, the surge of racial and ethnic discrimination in the community in response to the SARS scare is worth our close attention.

What Judy Collins of Massachusetts had experienced during the SARS scare was just this kind of discrimination. Judy and her husband, Dick, went to Guangzhou, China, in March when the news about the mysterious disease had just broken out. Having previously adopted two girls from China - eight-year-old Brittany and five-year-old Madison - the Collins went there again to bring back a third child, this time a two-year-old boy, Sean. When Judy and Dick were there, the American consulate had dismissed all nonessential personnel in response to SARS, but it remained open for adoptions. Judy stayed alert. Even though she knew that the place where Sean came from had no SARS cases, she kept herself informed by calling epidemiologists, checking the Center for Disease Control's website, and monitoring everyone for any SARS symptoms. When they returned to Massachusetts, however, the local community panicked. The school requested their children be kept home for ten days though they had no symptoms at all. Similarly, Dick developed a rash after sitting in their hot tub; despite the fact that a rash is not one of the primary symptoms of SARS, his physician refused to treat him and sent him instead to the emergency room where he had to enter through a private door. The neighbors came to visit the new child, but they stopped at the end of the driveway, inquiring if everyone in the family was all right. No one in Judy's family got SARS; nevertheless, people feared they carried the disease because of their recent trip to China and their adopted children (Pierce 21-22).

The level of anxiety was nearly tangible. In Great Britain, SARS was referred to as "the next AIDS" in newspapers, though the claim was later proven to be unfounded. In fact, the 7,000 probable cases worldwide by early May paled in comparison to the two million victims of tuberculosis each year. SARS traveled fast, but fear traveled even faster. The widely-circulated stories made it seem as if people in the North American Asian communities were carriers of the disease even though SARS is not a disease of ethnicity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Encountering the Other: SARS, Public Health, and Race Relations
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.