As COVID-19 continues to spread, one thing has been consistently on my mind — the unreasonable and unjustified rise of xenophobia towards those who are, or look, ethnically Chinese. With the country on high alert, it is time for us to come together to overcome this pandemic. Yet there are some out there who have instead taken this opportunity to fuel the prejudice and bigotry that has arisen.
On March 16, President Donald J. Trump tweeted, “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”
As a representative of our country, and as someone who represents the over 22 million Asian Americans living in the United States, President Trump should have known the implications of this tweet. The term "Chinese Virus" should not have been used. This is a racist phrase that makes no positive impact on anyone.
I will acknowledge, however, that on March 23, President Trump tried to backtrack his statement by tweeting, “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!”
Yet, shortly after tweeting that, President Trump himself once again used the term “Chinese Virus” during a news conference while updating the nation on the status of the virus and on Chinese-U.S. relations. According to an article published by The New York Times, President Trump’s logic behind using this term is that “It’s not racist at all … It comes from China, that’s why.”
The term “Chinese Virus” not only affects those who are in China, but also the ethnically Chinese and Asian-looking individuals trying to live their lives in this country. It intentionally pins the blame on Chinese people for the spread of COVID-19, feeding the desire to vilify on someone on their ethnicity — an easy scapegoat.
By choosing to associate a race to this pandemic, President Trump is telling people that it is alright to call COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus," and that China is to blame, which is not the message that should be shared during this time.
This is not a problem for just China anymore. This is a global pandemic, and it affects all of us, not just the Chinese. The World Health Organization (WHO) Official names for this pandemic differentiate between the name of the virus itself (SARS-CoV-2, referring to severe acute respiratory syndrome) and the disease it causes: COVID-19, meaning coronavirus disease 2019. The WHO recommends to “[avoid naming diseases after] ... geographic locations, people’s names, species of animal or food, cultural, population, industry or occupational references, and terms that incite undue fear.”
The WHO had taken extra precaution to prevent the discriminatory consequences that would come with naming it after its geographic location. Yet, President Trump went on sowing racism and division within our country by doing just that.
The racism and xenophobia towards Asians that President Trump displayed is not new. For decades, Asian Americans have been plagued with derogatory stereotypes including, but not limited to being the model minority. Yet, even as the model minority, Asian Americans are often denied leadership opportunities and “are overlooked in research, clinical outreach and advocacy efforts,” according to Zara Greenbaum from the American Psychological Association.
I’ve heard one too many stories from my fellow Asian American friends recounting experiences where they have been declined services or had people shift away nervously while muttering “coronavirus” under their breath as they walked by. Furthermore, there have been numerous accounts where people have been verbally assaulted or even spat on. Multiple news sources, including NPR, The L.A. Times and ABC7, have published reports of hostility toward Asian Americans.
Our president has infamously said that we must “Make America Great Again.” However, I believe that the way to do so is not to scapegoat a minority group. We must stand together in unity and support each other through these uncertain times.
This is the opinion of Sammi Su, a sophomore marketing and Asian and Pacific Studies double major from West Covina, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.