For six months, I have lived happily in America as a Chinese student, and then the COVID19 virus hit. Suddenly, my safe space shifted to one of prejudice when one of my classmates tweeted a political cartoon attacking Chinese people. The image was of a person shaking hands with another, asking him: ‘Where are you from?’ When he informs the asker that he is from China, he watches this man cut off his own hand. For all of the Chinese people currently studying and living at my school, this cartoon infuriated us. Yet we know our classmate’s promotion of this fear towards Asians wasn’t all her fault.
President Trump’s use of this culturally insensitive term: “Chinese virus,” rather than its globally accepted monikers: Coronavirus or COVID19, reveals his deep-rooted prejudice against China. When questioned by the media, his response resembled that of an angry child. ‘Because it comes from China,’ President Trump said. ‘It’s not racist at all,” he went on to say, “Not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. I want to be accurate. And they tried to say at one point – maybe they stopped saying now – that it was caused by American soldiers.’ President Trump’s acknowledge of this tit-for-tat reveals just how childish world politicians can be. Now, we ask for this leader to stop using the phrase and work with the world to attack this “invisible enemy’.
As leader of the US, President Trump’s actions are significant. He has exacerbated the unfriendly dispute between the two global powers, leading to an increase in hate crime during a time when public health should be of utmost importance. In New York, for instance, a man assaulted an Asian woman wearing a face mask. He called her a “diseased b—h.” All the way across the country to the other coast, a man on Los Angeles public transport shouted at an Asian American woman, claiming Chinese people are “putrid and responsible for all diseases.”
What if President Trump continues to use this phrase despite growing criticism? The number of people discriminated against will continue to increase and relations between our nations to sour. Previous epidemics have been labeled by their geographical location of origin (For instance the 2013 West African Ebola Virus, for which the geographical location has actually been dropped), however this time is not quite the same. Throughout his first term as President, Donald Trump has continually received criticism for racism. Coming from his mouth, it is even more damaging, particularly when so many people in the US support and promote him.
Now is not the time to place blame. For people all over the world, we hope that the governments can eradicate this virus. China, as an experienced country in suppressing and treating it, could work with the US to develop and disperse an antidote. That is the most important action each government needs to take. So let’s play nice, please, because while people are getting sick, others are getting assaulted.
Lieu, Ted. “Trump is stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis.” The Washington Post, 18 March 2020.
Roger, Katie et al. “Trump Defends Using Chinese Virus Label, Ignoring Growing Criticism.” The New York Times, 18 March 2020.
Russell, Anna. “The Rise of Coronavirus Hate Crimes.” The New Yorker, 17 March 2020.
Smith, David. “Trump talks himself up as ‘wartime president’ to lead America through crisis.” The Guardian, 22 March 2020.