As people confined to their homes will be well aware, limits on human movement and interaction are crucial to holding back outbreaks of disease. Racism, however, exploits a flaw in human reasoning quite as effectively as infections exploit flaws in our immune defenses. The central fallacy is to assume that if international travel helps spread disease, a perceived “foreign” group is most likely to be carriers. Viruses, though — unlike people — don’t much discriminate by race..
Despite the lack of evidence that ethnic groups are responsible for disease, the canard has been frequently been used to justify racist measures.
For much of the past century, the relative absence of pandemics has put the alliance between racism and disease into remission. Vaccines, antibiotics, sewerage systems and a better understanding of hygiene have proved our most powerful tools for fighting disease."