• Tianyi Jia

“The Wuhan I Know”: Dispelling Assumptions

The increasing spread of Coronavirus is accompanied by the escalation of another awful concept: xenophobia and racism.

How many times has the term “Wuhan Virus” appeared on social media? How many people who denounce Wuhan are able to claim confidently that they know the city?

Before the pandemic, in fact, few Americans had ever heard about the city Wuhan. Being the first city to be quarantined due to the coronavirus, Wuhan became the focal point that captured the world’s attention; Wuhan successfully stepped onto the global stage, however for reasons that were anything but good.

To defend her hometown, comic artist Laura Gao stepped forward with great courage. Art was Gao’s secret weapon; she used comics as a means to speak to the world. As an Asian-American born in Wuhan and living in Texas, Gao recognized the other side of the story: the anger and hate directed at her hometown that were coming from the media and the people around her. People now knew the term “Wuhan”, but they did not understand the city. In the eyes of many, Wuhan was simply labeled as the origin of COVID-19. The beautiful city was replaced and reduced to nothing more than the cold label. Troubled by the situation, Gao started her comic project - “The Wuhan I Know”.

In a series of comic strips, Gao shared her personal story and the history of her hometown. She wanted to show the world the other side of Wuhan - the side left undisclosed by media. In her comic, she offered to her audience Wuhan’s rich history; she revealed Wuhan as “the central hub of trade, transportation, steel, and rail” with a population of “11 million people.” On a more nostalgic note, she talked about her favorite street foods such as rei gan mian (hot and dry noodles) and duck neck. In the end, she made it clear that the purpose of this comic was to give people a “bit more appreciation beyond the blur of headlines.” Gao hoped people would remember Wuhan for something other than the virus. Appealing to the world to “share human stories” and “remember the problem is a world problem”, Gao became the impromptu hero of Wuhan and the Wuhanese.

Gao is surely not the only one who experienced discrimination and hostility - many Asian-Americans are facing the same adversity. Asians are called “coronavirus” and "diseased" and told to “get out of here” and “go back to China” if they are perceived to be Chinese. The ignorant idea “if you are Chinese, you must have coronavirus” has become a common misconception.

We should avoid making conclusions before knowing the full story. The root of racial discrimination is prejudice. Our brains are lazy; it tends to label a group with preconceived notions and apply the assumptions to every individual in the group. Stereotyping and prejudice are dangerous - signals indicating people are losing the ability to think objectively.

We should first learn to see the world with our minds, not our eyes and ears. Next, we must learn to educate ourselves by fostering in-depth thinking, having strong determinations, and considering others’ perspectives. Learn to love the world but also be ready to step up to uphold justice.






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