It was 1:56 PM on the 9th of April 2020 when we received a wechat message from my landlord saying I quote ” Hello, the epidemic prevention and control requirements, Xiancun Police station requires ALL AFRICANS to be isolated at home for 14 days, The government requires quarantine, the attitude is very tough. I hope you cooperate.” This was followed by minor instructions of how food will be delivered to us. Part of me was shocked but part of me expected that message the day before. Everyone from my home country and other African countries had received a similar massages from the 5th of April 2020. Despite the entire African continent having been the least affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we were singled out and objectified. As Africans we became the carries and spreaders of a virus we knew nothing about. These messages were followed by disturbing events such as evictions of Africans from their apartments and hotels they were renting, restaurants and businesses refused to serve people of colour. Some went as far as putting up signs saying: “Foreigners are not welcomed here, especially black people.” It did not end there, the quarantine was followed by a series of nucleic acid tests that were conducted on us every three days for a duration of two weeks, despite having not left the country and testing negative. By the end of the 8th day of quarantine, my flatmate and I had been tested 6 times.
I remember asking why us, why just African people, a response I got was an implication that we are obvious disease carriers and our immune systems are compromised. (a stereotype that exists here due to impact of AIDS in Africa). As a scientist myself and having studied various viruses and diseases (MSc in Plant Pathology) it did not make sense to me why I would be subjected to such simply because of my passport and the colour of my skin. I had participated a few months earlier in a worldwide outcry against the discrimination of Asian people due to the virus. Yet here I was labelled a virus, tested in corridors for everyone to take videos and photos of my humiliation. I was angry, I asked myself why is it that as black people we are easier targets, crimes committed against us are deemed as necessary? We were released from quarantine after 10 days, due to the attention this whole situation was attracting, a few photos and videos had made it out and people back home were angry. However, stepping out into the public was another challenge. Citizens ran the moment they saw us, no one wanted to sit next to you in the subway. Some went as far as exiting the train as soon as the saw you walking in. The evictions were still happening, restaurants were still refusing to service us, people held their noses when walking past you, some ran out of lifts as soon as your walked in. Some spat on you from their balconies, while others pulled their children and spouses away as you approached them. It was until 2 weeks had passed, when a statements was released “condemning” and discriminatory behaviour. However, the damage was already done and one statement could not change people’s mindsets.
While all this was happening, tensions were rising on social media and around the world, Breona Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were killed. Shortly after that George Floyd was also murdered. The questions I had been asking myself the previous weeks all came back to me, again I was angry and hurt. I asked God, why we had to suffer? How long had go on until were are seen as human, until our lives are valued? How long do we have to wait until we do not have to account for our blackness. I have had enough, It was enough and We were enough! I wasn’t going to hide my pain anymore, I refused to be scared, to be tormented and treated less than simply because I was black. IT ENDS NOW! #BLACKLIVESMATTER #IAMNOTAVIRUS #IAMHUMAN #NOTNOWNOTEVER