Prejudice in Past Pandemics


  • Sarah Adnan Bahsoun University of Florida



pandemic, COVID-19, prejudice, Black Death, Spanish Flu, Influenza of 1918, political rhetoric, Asian-Americans, Judaism, The Church, plague, flu


Accompanying the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) across the globe was a proliferation in anti-Asian hate crimes and political rhetoric. These discriminatory actions mirrored the prejudice exhibited towards other groups in past pandemics, such as Jewish populations in Europe during the Black Death between 1346 and 1353. This study aimed to determine similar patterns relating to and underlying the prejudice seen in past pandemics, focusing on three categories: hate crimes, political rhetoric, and religiosity. Prejudice against Jewish people during the Bubonic plague, Immigrants in America during the 1918 Flu, and Asian Americans during COVID-19 were investigated in this study because of the historical record of existing prejudice against these groups before the start of the pandemics. Overall, this study found that there was no general pattern of hate crimes during past pandemics without accompanying political rhetoric. In addition, there was no general pattern in religiosity in the pandemics studied, suggesting that the prejudice was not fueled by religious motivations. Given the small selection of pandemics analyzed in this study, further analysis with more pandemics could present more robust conclusions.