Do not stereotype monkeypox cases with African photos

The writer says prejudiced stereotyping is against humanity and in today's world it is casting a shadow on the fight against the pandemic.

Zhang Zhouxiang

Zhang Zhouxiang

China Daily


Test tubes labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

May 27, 2022

BEIJING – The Foreign Press Association, Africa, issued a statement on its official Twitter account on Saturday, registering its displeasure against media outlets using images of Black people alongside stories of the monkeypox outbreak in North America and the United Kingdom.

The fact is that many Western media outlets have long formed the habit of attributing all bad things to other regions of the world. For epidemic reports, they attach photos of Africans; when reporting business fraud, they link it to Asians; anything to do with shady deals and they hint at Eastern Europe.

Such prejudiced stereotyping is against humanity and in today’s world it is casting a shadow on the fight against the pandemic.

By using images of Black people on reports about the monkeypox outbreak, the Western media outlets are creating a false impression. Some people might, as it often happens, just click on the story and look at the images and conclude it was something happening in Africa. By stressing that the disease was first reported in Africa and using such images, the websites end up creating a lasting impression in the minds of readers, which may not change even after they have read the whole story.

It might also make readers underestimate the threat from the disease in their own backyard, where cases have already been reported.

The Western media is also strengthening the stereotype of ethnic Africans. Because of existing prejudices, major Western societies are already a divided lot. The improper use of such photographs in reports will only deepen the split. When a society links an “epidemic” with “Africans” or “Blacks”, any efforts to promote racial equality will then fall by the wayside.

The use of Black people’s images in reports about the monkeypox is only one of the many stereotypes in the West. There are other ones targeting the Asians, Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans. Stereotyping is already a big headache in the West. Please do not make it worse.

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