‘Chinese virus’: Is the name racist?
President Trump has been using his own term for the coronavirus, said Lili Loofbourow in Slate.com. As part of a clear political strategy, Trump and his GOP allies have been calling it the “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” or even “WuFlu” for short. In Trump’s notes at a briefing last week, “corona” was visibly crossed out and replaced with “Chinese.” By blaming Asians, Trump is trying to “distract people from his deadly mismanagement” of the pandemic response, which included two months of dismissing the virus as no more dangerous than the flu and actually praising China’s response. Feeling “trapped” by the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the U.S., Trump is hoping to bait liberals into calling him a racist while Republicans unify “against a hated enemy.”
Calling it the “Chinese virus” is not inherently racist, said David Mastio in USAToday.com. Democrats who insist that it is have forgotten “just how common and innocuous geographic names are for diseases.” What about Spanish flu, West Nile virus, German measles, or Lyme disease, named for a town in Connecticut? Remember, said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com, “even the Chinese government called it the ‘Wuhan virus’ at first.” Then the country’s communist regime tried to cover up the outbreak, bungled the response, and refused to cooperate with international health agencies. Still, as we struggle to mount an effective response, “it’s a spectacular waste of time” to argue about what to call the virus or to rehearse old arguments about racism.
Actually, demonizing Asians has “dangerous consequences,” said Dylan Scott in Vox.com. There are reports nationwide of people spitting on Asian-Americans, boycotting their businesses, and blaming them for the outbreak. In California, a teenager was hospitalized after bullies claimed he had coronavirus and attacked him. Even Trump felt an obligation to tweet this week that “it is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community” and that “the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form.” A little late for that, said Graeme Wood in TheAtlantic.com. “The virus came from Wuhan, dagnabbit,” his Fox News base is saying. “He’s right to call it by its name!” For the rest of us, this is a Trumpian “gullibility test,” meant to lure Americans into focusing on the country’s culture war instead of a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands. “Don’t fail it.” ■