The "Chinese Virus"

Ever since January 7th, when Chinese health authorities confirmed numerous cases of pneumonia (reported on December 31, 2019) to be associated with the novel Coronavirus, the disease has spread to the United States and major parts of the world, including: Italy, Spain, Mexico, and France. With over half a million confirmed cases and nearly 25,000 deaths, COVID-19 (as it is officially known) has become the world's most recent fear, and has without a doubt changed the lives of thousands of individuals.

As of March 3rd, the novel Coronavirus has a mortality rate of 3.4%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite its relatively low fatality rate, the new pandemic should not be taken lightly.

COVID-19 has not only wreaked havoc and led to seeing what some may call "the worst of humanity", but it has also come with some controversy, as some -- including the U.S. President, Donald Trump -- have began referring to it as the "Chinese Virus".

There is nothing wrong with tweaking a name, especially that of a disease, for ease of speech. However, there will always be a problem when a label is attached, especially that of a derogatory nature. There are those -- mostly Trump sympathizers -- who claim that this is not racist... and they may be right... to a certain extent. They may claim that "they” (meaning Trump and themselves) say it with no racist intention, that China is simply where the "virus originated", thus simply calling the disease by another name. These are the sort of people that seek a rhetorical curtain, so to speak, to hide their stigmatizing remarks in every occasion; the sort of people that will proudly say the "N word" out loud because it's in a book or because they're quoting their favorite movie. These people are deliberately attaching an ethnicity to a pandemic.

Let's give these people the benefit of the doubt -- assume that they are not being racist. If this where the case, then why would the WHO (no, not the one with Roger Daltrey) make a public statement via Twitter that specifically asks people to NOT refer to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus"? They even claimed that the disease's name was chosen in order to "avoid stigmatization". If the World Health Organization had to speak up regarding this issue, there was clearly something wrong.

Again, let's side with these people; let's agree that they are not being racist. No matter their intentions, the ethnic association to the virus has lead to many Asian American people (not just Chinese American) to feel attacked, as some have even gone as far as to call COVID-19 the "Kung Flu", the true quintessence of racial cruelty and racism. Not only that, but NBC has presented data that claims that Asian Americans have reported 650 racist acts over the last week. People in China have began feeling the waves of racism, and in some households, many have began blaming China and their people for the unfortunate spread of COVID-19. More and more people have started to develop racist attitudes, even if unconsciously, towards the Asian community after many -- I reiterate, even the President -- have began referring to the new pandemic as the "Chinese Virus". Even if the reference does not carry a racist intention, it is still causing people to behave in a racist manner; it is having harsh consequences in the Asian community, and it has to stop. Even if these people express some truth when they claim that their statements are not meant in a racist manner, they should be aware of the consequences and negativity that it is causing; if they don't stop, even after seeing the damage, what does it say about humanity? I don't blame them, though; if I were to call Donald Trump my role model, I'd probably find myself being ignorant and careless as well.

 

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WHO Coronavirus Stigma Guide: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/covid19-stigma-guide.pdf

NBC Racism Report: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/asian-americans-report-nearly-500-racist-acts-over-last-week-n1169821

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