5 February 2020

Ella Shi expresses the fears of Chinese-Australians: “The announcement that those being evacuated from Wuhan — predominantly Australian citizens of Chinese descent — would be quarantined on Christmas Island struck an uncomfortable chord for many who felt the resonances of our brutal offshore detention regime. We’re asking, would this be the treatment reserved to repatriated people had the virus broken out in the UK?” She explains how old prejudices are bubbling back to the surface, and why: “Whiteness doesn’t inherently exist but was constructed to justify Western European economic exploitation, slavery, colonisation and control. … Because if the ‘Other’ is dangerous and exotic then ‘we’ are the civilised norm. … Today, we don’t recoil at bat soup because it’s ‘barbaric’: it is barbaric because we choose to recoil at it. This isn’t about whether it’s okay or not to eat bat soup, but about recognising the response to the Coronavirus is an expression of a need to feel disgusted by the dirty barbaric Other in order to enable the Anglo-European Australian state to identify itself as civilised and pure to legitimise its sovereignty.” White Australians need to confront this truth and ask themselves what they are doing to change it.