In this episode of Code Switch from NPR, the amazing historian Erika Lee (author of The Making of Asian America: A History) breaks down the connections between xenophobia and the coronavirus known as COVID-19. By the way, that’s me speaking in the first 12 seconds of the episode.
Issues of contagion and concealment go hand-in-hand, especially when the contagion involves viruses unseeable by the naked human eye, or what one author who I won’t name referred to as the “the faceless brown mass” of those entering the US from Mexico. Associating contagion with a particular group of people allows some to place blame without taking on responsibility.
Of all the things I said for the episode, I’m really glad the assistant editor chose to use this particular snippet on visibility. I’ve been contemplating issues of in/visibility for years now. Here, for instance, is a blog post from when I was connecting invisibility to race and gender in literature: https://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/invisibility-race-and-ethnicity-in-american-womens-writing-throughout-the-twentieth-century/ (More of my articles and online posts are located here.)
Click this link to listen to the episode of Code Switch on NPR, “When Xenophobia Spreads Like a Virus”: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/02/811363404/when-xenophobia-spreads-like-a-virus