Friday, May 24, 2024

Swine Flu Spurs Xenophobic Comments

As more than 140 cases of H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, have emerged across the United States, the growing public health concern has also exposed fear and hate against Hispanics.

Conservative talk show host Michael Savage said, “No contact anywhere with an illegal alien! And that starts in the restaurants where you don’t know if they wipe their behinds with their hands!”

On Thursday, Boston talk radio host Jay Severin was suspended after anti-Semitic statements after calling Mexican immigrants “criminalians” during a discussion of swine flu.

Across the Internet, xenophobic reactions are spreading. In online forums, posts are becoming vicious. An anonymous poster ranted, “This disgusting blight is because MEXICANS ARE PIGS!”

Savage said that the spread of swine flu could be a terrorist method, speculating that Mexican immigrants are being used as walking germ warfare weapons, “It would be easy, to bring an altered virus into Mexico, put it in the general population, and have them march across the border.”

Liany Arroyo, director of the Institute for Hispanic Health at the National Council of La Raza said, “What we have seen is that the anti-immigrant groups are using this to shamelessly promote their agenda.”

As swine flu fears have spread, the backlash has also affected some Mexican restaurants.. Jennifer Pesqueira, whose family has owned and operated El Indio Mexican restaurants in San Diego since 1940, said her business experienced a 20 percent drop in business.

Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan and author of “When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed” says this kind of response has been seen before.

He says, “The backlash against a specific minority group is nothing new. During the medieval Black Plague, Europeans blamed Jews, saying they poisoned the wells. In an 1892 cholera pandemic, the U.S. blamed immigrant European Jews. In the flu of 1918, Italians blamed the Spanish. The Spanish blamed the Italians. For HIV it was gay men and Haitians.”