The Affects of Racist Discourse: British Media’s Scapegoating of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Groups in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Deanna Faye Holroyd


Through a case study of the news media narrative surrounding British Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups published by the Daily Mail during the COVID-19 pandemic, this article analyzes the affects of news media discourse to better understand how and why racial scapegoating and racist ideologies abound in times of public (health) crises. By conducting a critical discourse analysis, this article finds that although BAME individuals were initially presented as heroic healthcare workers in the first few weeks of COVID lockdown, the Daily Mail soon presented them as inexplicable sources of contagion, turning them into public scapegoats for the spread of the virus. Drawing on historical racial tropes of poverty, ill-health and poor living-conditions, the Daily Mail articles simultaneously suggested BAME individuals were biologically inferior to white Brits, and increasingly implied they were personally responsible for their disproportionate COVID suffering. This discourse thus generated emotions of fear, uncertainty, and aversion towards a fictional group of homogenous, non-white individuals, who were presented as a source of contagion and a threat to the health of the white British nation. By scapegoating BAME individuals for the spread of COVID-19, the Daily Mail denied that historic, systemic racism was responsible for COVID-related racial health inequities, and instead succeeded at sustaining the popular imaginary of the UK as a tolerant nation, free of racism.


BAME; COVID; news media; racial scapegoating; discourse; affect

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