Who gets to be American in the age of coronavirus?

The Statue of Liberty immersed in fog. (Courtesy of Luke Stackpoole)

In a recent Tweet, President Donald Trump called the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, the “Chinese Virus.” His comment received backlash from many perspectives, some defending the President, and some sending hateful words for his renaming of the virus. Reading the responses supporting Trump made me angry, and reading some answers explaining their experience with racism made me equally upset. It revealed to me how my Asian community views racism as it affects us, and not our fellow Americans that are our neighbors and partners.

Trump renaming the virus brought up arguments that it was rash and inappropriate to name a disease based on the country of origin. Still, Ebola was named after a river in West Africa, yet this level of attention was never broached. The coronavirus has manifested its own intentional, meaningful, and scientific name that served a purpose, yet Ebola’s scientific name is “Zaire ebolavirus.”

The argument that we should never name a virus or disease based on a region should be a universal rule. It should not be left in the hands of a wealthy first-world nation. As Americans, we should be inclusive and fight for everyone, not just ourselves.

Photo of President Trump’s speech where “Chinese [virus]” is written in lieu of “corona [virus].” (Jabin Botsford via Washington Post)

As an Asian-American woman, the racism that I have experienced was minimal, and I have realized that privilege. I know that I am not only financially privileged and considered a “model minority,” and the racism that I face is seldom systemic. The racism I deal with comes in the forms of occasional insensitive comments. The most uncomfortable comments are those that fetishized and sexualize me.

Until the novel coronavirus spread from Wuhan, Asian-Americans had not experienced a heightened level of racism in recent years. Before, the primary racism we faced was a lack of media representation; now, we see our community attacked, blamed, and harassed. It is disheartening to see a woman that looked like me saying she was getting punched, glared at, and avoided. 

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I am disappointed in my fellow citizens as more make hateful comments to Asian-Americans as if we are somehow responsible for the actions of China’s government. But what is most disheartening is seeing many of my Asian peers speaking out about racism, now that it concerns us. Most Asians are not experiencing police brutality, and ICE is not knocking on my door, asking for my mom. It is time that my community considers the black and brown individuals who have experienced this racism their entire lives.

People of color who defend Donald Trump mention the anti-blackness and colorism that comes from many Asians. As Asians, it is time to understand what others experience daily, not just during a crisis. To continue the finger-pointing perpetuates the cycle of racism, and dividing minorities is precisely what the majority wants.

Now is not the time to fight over who is more discriminated against; instead, we should worry about the problem at hand: a global pandemic. A virus does not have a race, creed, or country. It is time to stop treating it as such and take care of one another.

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