racism and covid-19

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/9/2020 11:45:35 AM IST

 The world has witnessed the police brutality and murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, followed by the destructive acts of protesters in different parts of the world. According to the UN News, more than 600 rights groups called for an investigation into police violence after the murder of George Floyd. The white Minneapolis police officer, Mr. Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes faces charges of second-degree murder and human slaughter. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. Denouncing racism, the UN Human Rights Council President, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, said that the issue of Floyd’s killing is not just one isolated killing in one country, but it goes beyond, and it is a crucial universal concern that needs to be seriously addressed. The British Crime Survey reveals that in 2004, around 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities said they had been victims of a racially motivated crime. They had suffered 49,000 violent attacks, with 4,000 being wounded. The practice of racism is indeed sin and crime against humanity.


acism and Slave Trade

The gruesome murder of Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others reveals how deep the racial mind-set is in our society. This is just one episode, but the black, the indigenous people, and many racial minorities have been facing discrimination, both individually and collectively, for centuries. During the colonial era, millions of Africans were captured, purchased, transported, and enslaved in Europe and North America. They were forced to work in railway constructions, sugar plantations, cotton, tobacco, tea, rice, and many other plantations, and development works. They were considered as properties and chattels for sale; they were brought to market places and sold along with animals and goods and frequently sold at auctions. If the buyers were not willing to buy, the whole family members were broken up for sale. The slave trade lasted for 400 years. It is said that about 40,000,000 Africans were transported from Africa to the U.S. Dunbar estimated that 900,000 slaves were imported in the sixteenth century, 2,750,000 in the seventeenth century, over 7,000,000 in the eighteenth century, over 4,000,000 in the nineteenth century, and about 15,000,000 in all. Even some of the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers owned slaves without realizing that it is sin and denial of human rights who are created in God’s image.

The slave trade was closely connected with the concept of white superiority. The blacks (and also brown) were considered not fully human beings, but seen as people with lesser brains and not created in the image of God. The white colour is always understood as superior; the black is the colour of inferiority and blackness is a sign of curse from God. The white race is mentally, physically, morally, or culturally superior to other races. It is not only the blacks who were brought as slaves, the white colonizers also assumed that the Native Americans and other indigenous people in different parts of the world were inferior in all human aspects. The Native Americans were merely described as “lying, thieving, murdering savages, pagan in religion, and racially stupid except for their animalistic cunning.” Some Europeans thought that because the blacks and indigenous were pagans, it was the responsibility of the white people to Christianize and civilize them. They thought that they were chosen by God to teach, dominate, rule over other nations, and that “Africans were destined for perpetual slavery because of the curse of Canaan.” Sadly, the blacks, Asians, and indigenous people’s lives are still valued less than white lives. This is what is happening today in the US and other parts of the world.


acism and Human Tragedy

Many tragic wars and killings have taken place due to racism in many parts of the world. Claiming their racial superiority, Germans slaughtered about 6 million Jews during the Holocaust under Hitler. Asserting the White race as superior, it is said that about 80 million American Indians were killed and thousands of people were made disabled in the U.S. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is said that about 209 thousand Japanese were killed in a single day when the Americans dropped two atom bombs. In December 1937, Japanese troops massacred 200,000 to 300,000 people in Nanjing, China. Taiwan still remembers the massacre of more than 30,000 Taiwanese on 29th February 1947 by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China Government. The U.S invasion of Iraq has claimed more than 180,000 innocent lives and more than 500,000 soldiers. Sporadic killings have become an everyday affair in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and many other countries. We can add many more sad stories of genocide and mass destruction that has occurred in the past and happening until today. All the wars are an integral part of racism and economic interest. After the land is conquered, its people have been forced to abandon their mother tongue, culture, and religion. The conquerors instil inferiority unto the conquered that they are backward, savage, inferior, and demonic. This is called racism. The denial of diversity and prejudice towards others’ races have caused much destruction all over the world.

Covid-19 and Racial Attacks

The Covid-19 pandemic is fuelling discrimination and racist attacks against Chinese and Asian communities are increasing all over the world. Racial superiority of the white is in the psyche of many people even today. The blacks though are free now but they are still slaves in the eyes of racist whites just because they are blacks. After the outbreak of Covid-19, racial attacks on Asian-Americans and Blacks have testified to that fact. They face not just a pandemic of health, but also a pandemic of hate. Asians are targeted not only in the U.S but also in Australia and Europe. Many Asians are feeling more vulnerable than ever before on roads, schools, elevators, and market places and even in their neighbourhood. According to a recent report from the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council’s Stop AAPI Hate, Asian-Americans in California have reported 832 incidents of discrimination in the past three months. Of those, 81 were incidents of assault while 64 were potential civil rights violations. Nation-wide, there have been nearly 20,000 reported incidences of discrimination and hate speech against the Asia and Pacific communities during the crisis (July 21, 2020 report). President Trump continues to call coronavirus as “Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu” in the press briefings and rallies. Asian-Americans, second-third generations living in the U.S are being asked “to go back to China”, “go back to wherever – Asian country you belong to”, “you started the corona”, “Chinaman, you need to go home”, “This f--- virus came from your mother country – you nasty a-- roaches”, “take your disease that’s ruining our county”. Likewise, many have been abused, attacked and many continue to live in fear of being attacked due to the surge of racism against Asians. Similarly, the Australian think tank Per Capita released a survey that shows that 81 percent of the respondents experienced attacks related to the coronavirus, among which 61 percent of the incidents included racist insults and abuse. The words “CHINA = COVID” were found written on the wall of a house on Sunday in a Chinese community in Sydney. Indeed, Covid-19 has exposed how racism creates violence and divides people based on race and colour.

Casteism and Racial Discrimination

Coming to the Indian context, many people have been experiencing racial discrimination for centuries. Indian society is based on the caste system and it is deeply rooted in the practice of pollution. Deenabandhu Manchala, a Dalit scholar, said that

Having lived in Europe for more than a decade and in the US for the last six years, from my experience, I can say that India is one of the most racist societies in the world. India’s caste system is widely acknowledged as the world’s largest systemic violation of human rights, as it continues to deny dignity and justice to over 201 million Dalits – the most discriminated sections of the society. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau’s 2018 Report, around 42,793 cases of assaults, 821 murders,

racism and covid-19

“The World Hospice & Palliative Care Day” is observed on 2nd Saturday of October every year to remember people who have been impacted by a life-limiting illness - either personally or supporting the loved one. People around the world observe this day to listen their needs, wishes and provides an opportunity to voice their concerns. This year, the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is celebrated with the theme “My care My comfort.” Previous year, it dealt with raising awareness of patient’s rights to claim the access to palliative care services. “My care My comfort” bring us to the attention of the quality of palliative care to meet the optimal comfort of patients and family caregivers who can expect as they encounter the problems of life threatening illnesses.

WHO defined Palliative care as: “An approach to improve quality of life of patients and families facing problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual”. This definition implies that palliative care is all about improving quality of care and management of distressing symptoms. It also pays attention to the family and caring the sick relative. The palliative care team consists of physician trained in palliative care, trained nurse, physiotherapist, counselor / chaplain and social worker along with other supporting staffs. The primary objective of the palliative care team is to let patients access the best standard of care and attain the highest level of comfort. Today, while celebrating the World Hospice & Palliative Care Day, we look into the quality of care in terms of patient and their family members, the healthcare responsibilities and the basic infrastructures needed to meet the standard of palliative care.

The Palliative care physician and team are trained to care the patient and family facing the life threatening illnesses, like Cancer, Spinal cord injury, Motor Neuron Diseases (MND), advanced stage of Heart failure, Kidney disease, etc. The team ensures that the patient gets access to Palliative care services early in the course of illness; manage distressing symptoms along with specialty team during active treatment, plan for follow-up care services and help the patient and family face through the difficult phase of end of life (EOL) and help the family through the bereavement process. The best supports and comfort are possible through paying detail attention to the physical, psychological, social and spiritual pain (called as “Total Pain” in palliative care) and meeting care needs and expectations of patient and family through the coordinated works of multi-disciplinary palliative care team.

“My care, My comfort” is patient’s words and it means to claim and get the right treatment, at the right time and right place, that meets her/his comfort, feels supported throughout and does not fell left deserted especially when they go through the difficult phase when curative intent is out of sight. Palliative care includes patient and family in the decision making ensuring that they are heard and given the due attention to their concerns and fulfills their wishes. The physician works meticulously on physical pain and other distressing symptoms like vomiting tendency, weakness, constipation, etc. The physiotherapist help maintain activities of daily living (ADL) to keep patient functionally independent. The counselor / chaplain takes care of the emotional needs of patient and sees the well-being of family caregivers, helping them cope with the stress and meeting their own emotional reactions to the sickness of loved ones. The palliative care nurses are the greatest need of the hour when many patients and families are opting for home care. The home palliative care which is an essential care service to meet the standard of care and providing comfort to patient and family is mostly achieved through family caregivers and the community palliative care volunteers (which we still lack). The home palliative care which is based on the Gold Standard Framework which allow the patient and family to be cared at the comfort of familiar place, feels secured and free in their own comfort zone. Patient feel dignified by getting treatment they wished, being listened to their concerns and fears, providing privacy and being in their own familiar home, being surrounded and getting due attention as they fight the illness. As patient progresses to terminal phase, compassionate care, comfort for the patient and helping the family to have a positive memory of the patient becomes of prime importance. It is very comforting and reassuring to the family to discuss about the positive memories patient leave behind, how the family and the palliative care team tried and given the best supportive care to their patient. The palliative care ends with bereavement supports to family but the bond lingers and many reference of palliative care comes from family whom we have cared for earlier. Palliative care ensures caregivers and family members receive the best support to provide care and comfort for their loved ones at home or in care facilities deliver palliative care services.

“My care My comfort” includes caring the palliative care workers. Taking care of seriously sick patient and highly emotional charged relative needs a lot of energy and resilience. The palliative care staffs have to monitor her/ his own emotional reaction as well as the sick patient, during the death of patient, responding to difficult questions of patient and family, etc. They need trainings, retreats, holidays and respite to reflect upon and refresh their commitments. This is a noble gesture on the part of patient and family to think and reflect upon the unmet needs of Palliative care workers which policy makers and organization need to ensure caring of carer not only the family caregiver but the formal health workers. In conclusion, “My care My comfort”, to ensure the best care and comfort is available to all deserving people, palliative care services must be mainstreamed into my country’s health care system, including through Universal Health Coverage reforms. The home care expenses should be covered in the health care budget, investing in and supporting palliative care trainings. The policy makers should ensure an essential package of palliative care services for all who need the care. The integration of palliative care into national /state health systems will prove a long way to achieving My care My Comfort.

Dr Nepuni Athikho,

DNB Family Medicine, Fellowship in Palliative Medicine,


G Diploma in Geriatric Medicine,

Eden Medical Centre, Dimapur

My care My Comfort: the benchmark to quality of palliative care

and 2957 rapes involving Dalits were recorded. In other words, every day 117 Dalits were assaulted, two murdered, and eight women raped. Sadly, the conviction rate is barely 28%. Therefore, as a person from there, I was very sad but not shocked.

The Dalits, who are outside of the caste structure, are considered to be the lowliest people and typically associated with the occupations which are regarded as ritually impure, such as those involving waste or carcasses. They are a people traditionally regarded as “untouchable.” Contact with them pollutes the high caste. Socialization and intermarriage are restricted from the higher caste. During the Covid-19, the high caste refused to stay together with Dalits in the quarantine centers. Some high caste even refused to eat food cooked by the Dalits. In the past, the Dalits were also not allowed to read the scripture. The caste system is also religiously sanctioned; it prescribes the occupation of each caste. Change of function is forbidden in principle to all castes. The Dalits are not allowed to enter the temples as their presence would pollute the sacred places and higher castes. “The Vedas learning was out of bounds for the Dalits, the hearing of which was to be punished with pouring molten lead into the ears and the reciting of which to be punished by cutting off the tongue.” Therefore, the caste system is worse, or the same as racism in the Indian context.


acial Attacks in India Cities

In the context of caste-ridden society like India, Adivasi/tribals are looked down upon as inferior and discriminated in many fronts. Many incidents of racial discrimination have been reported against the Northeasterners in many cities, especially in the metro cities. Seeing their mongoloid physical features, the mainlanders called them “corona”, “chinky”, “momo”. This is nothing but hate speech. Some were asked to vacate their rented residence by the landlords, some were not allowed to enter grocery shops, some were denied boarding of public buses, and many were asked to leave the neighbourhood. Much online harassment, filthy language, and abusive comments have been reported. Thus, many people continue to live in fear of being abused and attacked. In some cases, with the promise of recruiting in the modelling industry and lucrative jobs, many young girls and children have been lured into the sex industry and some alleged to be have been trafficked to foreign countries. Racism, objectification, commodification of humans go hand and hand. There is no respect for humanity.


nternalization of Racism

Internalization of the inferiority of the Blacks and Asians, while the Whites as superior are very strong in our society today. I had the privilege of facilitating Training in Mission (TIM), a youth empowerment program of the Council for World Mission (CWM), both in India and Taiwan. Student attendance is mostly from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean countries. Once I asked them to define “beauty” and their answers were – fair, slim, long hair, long leg, good breast, pointed nose, etc. I told them that they had excluded half of humanity – the black.

(To be concluded)

Wati Longchar


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