Marisa Mendosa, Art Director
April 8th, 2020
In the midst of a global pandemic, the issue of race still seems to find itself in the spotlight. Around the world, Asians have been receiving an increased amount of hatred, harassment, and discrimination due to the origin of COVID-19 being China. However, despite the novel virus originating in China, that doesn’t make it the “Chinese virus,” a term that has been popularized by President Donald Trump in the past few weeks.
Trump argued that he was being “accurate” and “it comes from China.” He even used his signature black sharpie changing “corona” to “Chinese” before giving a speech. But those statements do not rationalize the use of the words when people have been treated violently. The real crime is not the generalization of the term, while it is still hurtful and racist. The real harm in referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” is the violence, harassment, and backlash Asians receive due to the normalization of hearing the words “Chinese virus.”
The New York Post spoke to Charissa Cheah, a psychology professor for the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
“[Trump is] fueling these anti-Chinese sentiments among Americans … not caring that the people who will truly suffer the most are Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans, his citizens whom he’s supposed to protect,” she said.
It puts the blame of the pandemic on an entire race of people who had nothing to do with the virus in the first place. Anyone can get the virus and anyone can spread it. The stigma behind the words “Chinese virus” built up power over the past few weeks and became the root of some people’s fear.
People’s fear of the virus somewhat clouds their sense of logic and they begin to blame those of Asian-descent for the virus’s spread. Hearing the president of the United States call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” only increases those fears of the virus’s origins: China and people of Chinese descent.
Racist and xenophobic acts against Asian Americans have increased over the past few weeks. According to NBC News, over 650 incidents of Asian-targeted harassment had been reported to the online forum Stop AAPI Hate.
Xenophobic acts have varied from Uber and Lyft drivers refusing to drive Asian customers to being physically spat on by others. On February 14, CBS News reported a 16-year-old boy being sent to the hospital after a group of bullies accused him of carrying the coronavirus.
Even before many shelter-in-place orders were issued and restaurants were forced to close their doors to the public, many people had been avoiding Chinese food restaurants.
By mid-February, Chinatowns throughout the world reported a significant drop in sales. Manhattan’s Chinatown reported a 70% drop, according to The Washington Post.
In times like these, it is important to be extra considerate to everyone. Violence and racism are never an answer to fear. Blaming a minority for a virus that does not pick and choose its victims can only hurt that minority.