Why Trump’s Casual Racism Should Be Taken to Task
On March 16 2020, a tweet by Donald Trump exploded in every one of my international group chats on Twitter. By substituting “COVID19” with the phrase “Chinese Virus,” the attitude of the U.S. President was painfully clear. One of the most influential figures in international politics and the symbol for one of the most powerful nations in the world now advocates a racist voice. This is dangerous and needs to be corrected.
When asked why during a 19th March press conference, President Trump argued, “ ‘Cause it 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.” Ironically, his accuracy leaves a little bit to be desired – how the World Health Organization warned in 2015 that viral outbreaks have nothing to do with nationality or ethnic groups, and so we should never label them as the country from which they originate.
Chinese people, in other words, those from my home country, have bore the impact of COVID19 from late 2019 when the first case was found in Wuhan, China. American people viewing the news have developed a fear that this virus was born within the ethnicity of the Chinese people, and Trump’s recent use of the phrase ‘Chinese Virus’ now stokes that fire. The result? Prejudice, fear and xenophobia.
The penetration of a level of deep suspicion now integrates every corner of my life as a teenager studying in America. I cannot go anywhere without someone looking at me in fear. I still live on campus with other international students, because I cannot go home. We’ve seen American people cover their mouths tightly with their hands when passing us by. What these people don’t realize is that just like them, we have had no contact with the virus. Playing with people’s identity, placing blame on an ethnic group and then treating them as if they are the embodiment of that disease seems reminiscent of previous tragedies. Isn’t that what the Nazis did to millions of helpless Jewish people?
The Beijing Daily, a key media outlet in China, reminds us how: “The H1N1 virus originated in Mexico 2009, but we never called it the ‘Mexican virus.’ The first case of MERS was found in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but it has never been called the ‘Saudi Arabian virus?’” Even the previously termed West African Ebola virus has now been internationally shortened to simply: the Ebola virus. So why is it ok for the President of the United States in 2020 to refer to a global pandemic as the ‘Chinese Virus?’ He is, after all, a president who has been critized continually for being racist!
Amidst this worldwide crisis, both China and the U.S. have suffered. Now, as China’s statistics lessen and the worst of the virus is over there, it is even more imperative that President Trump learn public diplomacy. His country could work with China to bring a solution to this growing pandemic within its borders. Before that can happen, surely he can see why an apology is necessary.
Roger, Katie et al. “Trump Defends Using Chinese Virus Label, Ignoring Growing Criticism.” The New York Times, 18 March 2020.
Vazquez, Megan and Klein, Betsy. “Trump Again Defends Use of the Term “China Virus.” CNN Politics, 19 March 2020.