Column: Using racially charged terminology during a pandemic creates problems instead of solving them

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Commentary by Sophia Ling and Jessica Mo

Calling COVID-19 the “China virus” or “Kung-Flu” is a racist remark that not only denigrates the Chinese American community but also hinders the resolution of a global problem.

Asian Americans across the country are seeing a spike in racist incidents, including verbal and physical assaults, directed against them. It is important to recognize that these aggressive acts are built upon layers of existing prejudice, which often proliferates through hostile and derogatory speech. Knowing this, seeing these seeds of prejudice sowed in our own community is disturbing.

Yet, contrary to expert opinions, President Trump has publicly stated that he does not consider the term “China virus” racist. Carl Brizzi’s March 20 column implies much the same; his commentary focuses on playing the blame game instead of taking the opportunity to help flatten the curve and reduce the burden on healthcare workers.

Contrary to Mr. Brizzi’s sentiments, the World Health Organization dubbing the virus “COVID-19” wasn’t part of an effort to “obscure China’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders;” rather, it was consistent with the organization’s 2015 guidelines. To people like President Trump and Mr. Brizzi, who are not of Chinese descent, pointing fingers may seem logical – a simple statement of where the first COVID-19 cases originated. However, this mindset of pinning the blame on China as a whole is unproductive and irresponsible, failing to consider the lasting stigma it may impose on Asian Americans in exchange for short-term political catharsis.

This mindset that President Trump, Mr. Brizzi and others perpetuate paints people of Chinese descent, including members of our own communities, as a monolith, inviting xenophobia and discrimination. Furthermore, spreading this rhetoric willfully shifts attention away from mitigating the pandemic.

Combating prejudice starts with not calling COVID-19 the “China flu” and also considering the damage your words do to people in our community. Pointing fingers doesn’t solve the lack of resources or solidarity. Now is the time for empathy and compassion, to learn from each other and to band together to weather the pandemic.

Sophia Ling and Jessica Mo are Carmel residents. Sophia is a high school senior at Park Tudor and Jessica is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. You may write them at cimczarsoph20@protonmail.com.


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