Coronavirus has many faces, not just one. Ever since the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, the world has been stricken with fear, panic, and unfortunately, xenophobia. It’s a scary time we live in, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air to the scope of the virus’s infection with no way of knowing when the pandemic will end.
Every single person in the U.S. is feeling COVID-19’s effect with businesses closing, jobs ending and the disruption of our lives. Because of this widespread fear, it’s natural for people to find someone or somewhere to blame; however, people have pointed fingers toward the Chinese race as a whole, which is both worrisome and problematic.
It is unacceptable to refer to the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus’ and put responsibility for this worldwide pandemic on an entire population of human beings. The phrase is racist and offensive and has potential long-term harm toward the relationship between Americans, Chinese-Americans and native Chinese people.
The term ‘Chinese-virus’ has become popularized through online social media usage, press coverage and our own president. In press conferences, President Trump refers to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus,’ which poses problematic and hate-oriented rhetoric. When asked to explain his rationale he simply said, “It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s why.” However, coining a devastating virus with the face of a race has dangerous aftereffects.
There have been videos and photos of President Trump crossing out the word corona and replacing it with Chinese, purposefully putting blame and a target on a race — a race that doesn’t all have the disease and most importantly, is not responsible for it.
There are unfortunately hundreds of thousands of viruses and diseases that come from other countries in the world, and it isn’t respectful or OK to blame these travesties on anything other than the microscopic bacteria/virus itself. Nobody referred to H1N1, the Swine flu, as the American flu because the people suffering the most were ourselves, the Americans. When Ebola had an uptick in infection across the world, nobody was calling it — or making jokes about it being — the ‘African virus’ because there is a general understanding that that is not OK. Countries of origin, generally speaking, suffer the most fatalities when it comes to infectious communal diseases and that has been true in the case of Ebola and remained true for coronavirus (prior to March 19, 2020, when Italy surpassed China in number of coronavirus-related deaths).
Of course, coronavirus has become a worldwide pandemic, something that none of our parents have seen in their lifetime, and something that our generation won’t likely see for the rest of ours. The sheer spread of the virus is far different from diseases such as Ebola, Swine flu, avian flu, or even the common flu.
It’s a new pathogen that has made us very afraid. I know I am personally scared of my own health, as well as my family’s. I understand the need to want to find who/what is responsible for the coronavirus, but the truth is that sometimes horrible things happen without anyone’s control.
The markets where the coronavirus originated are very foreign to Americans and seem absolutely horrifying to those of us who aren’t part of that culture. But, there has to be an understanding that different cultures have different ways of life, and to people in Wuhan, the practice of those meat markets has been around for years.
Just as it is foreign for us to understand why escargot is a French delicacy, it’s just as hard for us to understand why people may eat animals such as bats. You don’t have to approve of eating those foods, that’s your right, but you should understand the cultural barrier associated with it and be respectful of the people of Wuhan. Calling them disgusting, dirty, or any other word of that sort is truly reprehensible and requires taking a step back and evaluating the situation.
With a leader like Trump showing distaste and attack toward the Chinese population, Chinese Americans like myself have become fearful for their own safety. Chinese parents in my neighborhood recently added all the other Chinese parents in the area to one large WeChat group chat. When my mom told me of this, I was confused about why, since it’s not like we interact that much with our larger community, but I soon realized it was for their own peace of mind and safety.
The founder of the group chat said that if anybody felt endangered, they would just have to say their location and somebody else would go and find them to help. Let that settle in. I live in a privileged, safe, suburban area and some of the over-50-year-old parents are scared for their safety. My mom even debated buying a gun!
More pertinently, there are many Chinese people around the world who are being shamed and attacked for simply being Chinese. We cannot associate the coronavirus with a face — it has no face. We cannot blame an entire country for a worldwide pandemic since a virus has no one destination. It’s discriminatory, racist and, plainly, hurtful.
The people of Wuhan have been suffering since it first originated in December with cases that resembled pneumonia. But now, we are all suffering as a united species. Everyone can feel the effect of self-isolation, quarantine and hyped-up healthcare to their own respective levels. Everyone is trying to help. My own parents, Chinese immigrants, have donated as much as they can to help others who don’t have the same resources.
Now is not a time to point blame and alienate others, but rather to embrace each other’s suffering with well wishes and kindness as we fight this virus together.
This is not a Chinese problem, it’s a human one. So please, repeat after me. Coronavirus. Not ‘Chinese Virus.’ Let’s fight this together. Stay at home, wash your hands, and take care of your loved ones.