Donald Trump yet again offended millions by referring to the Coronavirus responsible for the current global pandemic as the ‘Chinese Virus’. This statement has been criticized for being racist. This was not a blunder of a poor choice of words by Trump, it was a strategic one. He admitted taking full responsibility for his inflammatory choice of words denying claims it was racist, ‘[the virus] comes from China. It’s not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate’.
If you explore the current political context, it is clear it was a jab back at the Chinese government for claiming the Coronavirus came from US soldiers and not from the Chinese wet markets, ‘I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know China tried to say at one point … that it was caused by American soldiers. That can’t happen. It’s not gonna happen, not as long as I’m President. It comes from China’. The truth is no one knows the exact origin or the virus, there is only speculation. However, evidence from genome sequencing points towards it being a natural pathogen coming from bats and not engineered by humans.
Many observantly non-Asian people are coming to Trump’s defence stating historical pandemics have been named by their location of origin such as the Spanish Flu or German Measles, and are unable to understand why this is offensive. The truth is unless you walk in the shoes of those who it identifies you will never be able to comprehend its implications. These provocative comments come at a time when tensions in the US are becoming increasingly high and signs off on the use of other derogatory terms such as, ‘Kung-Flu’ making discrimination acceptable. Xenophobia is on the increase leading to violence and hostility towards not only the American Asian community but the global Asian community. Asians have begun to self-isolate not in fear of Coronavirus but in fear of falling victim to hate crimes. Just as Islamophobia was on the rise following 9⁄11. The term, ‘Chinese Virus’ creates an incredible stigma. We are in a time of a global crisis, death tolls are high, quarantines are being enforced and there is an economic recession looming. Everyone is feeling the detrimental effects and with governments struggling to control the pandemic, people are looking for someone to ‘blame’ in these dark times. Trump is pointing the finger to the Chinese people, the connotations of his words are clear. Perhaps it is his way of distracting the world form his lack of control of the situation when his re-election is in mind. It raises the question of whether Trump views Asian Americans as true Americans at all, as he remains oblivious to the racism they are facing and disregards their safety.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program has spoken out against Trumps choice of words, ‘It’s really important that we be careful in the language we use. It is a time for solidarity. This is a time for facts. This is a time to move forward together’. Thankfully Trump’s ignorance has not been adopted by the media who are referring to the virus by its correct terminology — Coronavirus.
As Trump continues to fuel bigotry and manipulates this global tragedy for his own political gains, we must be aware of the impact of his actions and take our own responsibility for the terms we use. Viruses do not discriminate, and neither should we. We must rise above this and remain united as only by working together will we conquer this global pandemic. Instead of pointing fingers we desperately need to look for a solution and we can only do that if we work together.