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“I’m Not a Virus”: Chinese-Italian Man Fights Coronavirus-Related Racism with Free Hugs

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A viral Facebook video shows a touching response to the recent outbreak of coronavirus-related racism spreading across Europe and North America.

In the video, Massimiliano Martigli Jiang, a Chinese-Italian man, stands in the middle of a busy square in Florence. He dons a surgical mask and a blindfold. A sign next to him reads, in Italian, Chinese, and English,

“I’m not a virus. I’m a human. Eradicate the prejudice.”

Some people pose for pictures or poke fun. But most choose to remove his mask and blindfold and embrace him. 

The video comes after a series of racist and Sinophobic incidents across Italy, including reports of Chinese tourists spat at in Venice and Rome’s Santa Cecilia conservatory banning all students of East Asian descent. Currently, there are only two confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Italy, and all flights from China have been suspended.

The video was created by a group called Italian-Chinese Youth Union. Their original Facebook post reads, “The virus that really scares us right now is not the coronavirus, but the prejudice that is in the air. Remove the coronavirus but not the people!” 

According to Firenze Today, Jiang says that the group was formed four years ago after civil unrest between Chinese-Italian workers and Italian law enforcement in Sesto Fiorentino, a municipality on the outskirts of Florence. In the interview, he also says that the association is collecting money to donate suits and masks overseas.

Related:

Coronavirus Stirs Rumors and Racism Towards Chinese Eating Habits and Health

The video is being circulated widely in the Italian media, and has over 170,000 views on Facebook. 

The wave of coronavirus-related racism has not only hit Italy; Chinese and Asian people from all over the world continue to be subjected to and document the phenomenon, from American teenagers making hilarious TikTok parodies to Chinese-French citizens starting the viral hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (#I am not a virus).

Allison Jiang
    Allison Jiang is a Baltimore-based writer interested in the intersection of art and culture. She is passionate about big dogs, social justice, and stand-up comedy, among other things.