As the White House ramps up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, President Trump has largely adjusted his earlier mocking rhetoric to fall in line with his officials. However, he insists on continuing to label COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” with seemingly no consideration for the blow-back from using that term.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump doubled down on his usage of the name. When asked by the press if he believed the nickname was racist, he replied,
“Because it comes from China. It’s not racist at all. Not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. I want to be accurate.”
The White House has stood by the President and his usage of the term, writing on Twitter,
“Spanish Flu. West Nile Virus. Zika. Ebola. All named for places. Before the media’s fake outrage, even CNN called it ‘Chinese Coronavirus.’ Those trying to divide us must stop rooting for America to fail and give Americans real info they need to get through the crisis.”
Others in the government have also taken to using similar terms, with Rep. Paul Gosar calling it “Wuhan virus,” after the city where the virus was first discovered. Additionally, CBS News White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang wrote in a tweet that a White House official called the virus “Kung-Flu” in her presence.
This kind of insensitivity is nothing new for the Trump administration and it’s dangerous. Naming coronavirus after a nation is not-so-subtly ascribing blame to those people for the virus’ existence. And, as the term spreads, it leads to racist attacks on innocent Chinese Americans for a pandemic that knows no nationality. It’s affecting everyone, and if it was simply a “Chinese virus” it would have never have crossed its borders. But that’s not how viruses work, and it’s ridiculous to imply any different.
But just as feared, Chinese Americans are paying the price for the President’s harmful statements and finding themselves the target of coronavirus-inspired hate crimes.
Four days ago, an Asian American woman was assaulted in Manhattan by a stranger who spat in her face and pulled her hair, blaming her for the spread of COVID-19. Another incident in New York City included a teen who kicked an Asian American man in the back, knocking him to the ground. In Israel, an Indian migrant who was mistaken for a Chinese man was brutally assaulted by two Israelis and had to be hospitalized.
With emotions running high, and many people beset by fear, it is absolutely irresponsible to unapologetically label the virus as “Chinese”, no matter how hard he tries to spin it otherwise. It is only stoking the resentful sentiments some already have and goading these individuals to act out these horrible crimes on innocent individuals.
But he shouldn’t expect them to stay quiet.
“You have no idea the ramifications your racist words & actions have on the Asian American community. You simply cannot even fathom the danger you are putting our community in. How dare you. You should be ashamed of yourself. You call yourself a leader? You know what leaders do? They LEAD by setting good examples and ACTION. Something we’ve yet to see you do.”
Condor mentioned Chinese billionaire Jack Ma as an example of an actual leader. The mogul has pledged to donate millions of masks and tests to the United States.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Chloe Bennet, whose father is Chinese, also clapped back at the “racist Cheeto in Chief” on Instagram, writing that Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” is a ploy to direct attention away from his “complete mishandling” of the virus.
Although it’s great to see these actresses speak out against Trump, there should definitely be more non-Asian celebrities speaking out in support and solidarity. Current times are worrying enough as is, without xenophobic hostility boiling up in the streets. The virus is a pandemic, which means people all over the globe are dealing with it with varying degrees of success.
Unfortunately, often in times of crisis, people are quick to point the finger as they look for someone to blame. Trump is essentially laying culpability at the feet of the Chinese, and sending a signal to others that it’s fine to fault them for it. It is completely reckless. With all of the stress that the coronavirus is placing on the economy and the health care system, the last thing the public needs is for hate crimes to be a matter of concern. And that is exactly what is happening.
In her post, Condor pleads with Trump to “Please. Be Better,” but it is uncertain if it is within the President’s ability to want to be better. He wants to take all of the credit for what others are doing to battle the virus while casting any blame away on someone else for anything that goes wrong. And while people are hunkered down in their homes, scared and unsure of the future, Chinese and other Asian Americans are the ones left to take the fall — when they’re only trying to survive like everyone else.