Xenophobia in pop culture: Are the memes funny?

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Just one example of a xenophobic meme targeted toward a specific group of people.

Bradey Resulta, Writer

On January 3rd, 2020, a United States airstrike occurred at Baghdad’s international airport which resulted in the death of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani.  

As of today, there are five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States; six subjects have been tested in Wisconsin. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, where it has since caused global anxiety through its merciless outreach into other countries.  

Both events, at their surface, are unsurprisingly different in a multitude of aspects. However, they do have similarities that allow them to conjure something both equally catastrophic and influential in today’s digital age; memes. 

Memes are used in a general population to promote awareness of a topic through humor; they’re jokes And jokes are meant to be funny, right? 

The humor that surrounds these two events involves the possibility of World War III, and suspicion of those who might carry the coronavirus. However, this humor and these memes leave silent victims in their wake. Unbeknownst to the target audiences, their personal satisfaction is rooted in the racist and xenophobic mocking of people that live in other countries. 

The memes depict general consensus of fear and suspicion towards those that look like they have Middle Eastern and Asian descent. To compartmentalize and stereotype others based on how they look, and then to generalize their entire population based on one’s own fear, is a lethal concoction that leads to toxic and perpetual racism. 

Xenophobia is defined as, per Merriam-Webster, “fear and hatred of strangers and foreigners or of anything strange and foreign.” 

Memes are funny, and it cannot be denied that they are tremendously influential in today’s digital age. Before you press the share button thoughconsider some questions: 

1) Is it funny because it’s not about me? 

2) Who does this affect? 

3) What does this really mean? 

You could consider these questions, and think about the hate-fueled backlash that other people are receiving… Or you could just laugh.