Is referring to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” racist?


Fact Box

  • 'Racism' is defined as 'the unfair treatment of people who belong to a different race' and 'the belief that some races of people are better than others.'
  • A 'coronavirus' is a type of virus that existed before COVID-19. As the World Health Organization director Dr. Tedrose Ghebreyesus explained in February 2020, the Co and Vi reference' coronavirus,' the D implies the type of disease, and the 19 stands for 2019—the year the first cases emerged. 
  • On March 11, 2020, President Trump addressed the nation to officially announce the coronavirus outbreak and how the White House had handled and planned on handling the crisis. Days following this, Trump began referring to the disease as the 'Chinese virus,' and when a reporter questioned him on this, he responded with, 'It comes from China... it's not racist. [...] I want to be accurate.' 
  • A 2021 analysis published in the UK PLOS Pathogens journal suggests that the estimated date of origin for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) occurred around November 2019 before spreading globally by January 2020. 
  • Johns Hopkins reports that COVID is recorded to have been the cause of death for over 6.5 million people worldwide as of October 2022.

Ivan (Yes)

During the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the term 'Chinese virus' sprung into usage. With it, inherently racist imagery that led to rising 'virus-spawned discrimination' was enacted against Asian people worldwide. While historically, there have been viruses named after specific landmarks connected to origin—such as the Ebola virus being named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo—calling COVID-19 the 'Chinese virus' doesn't just conjure a place; it also addresses an ethnic group, an entire nationality. And in doing so, it blames a whole nation for the sole responsibility over the virus, which was neither helpful during the initial outbreak nor necessary for rolling out pandemic response measures. 

To associate coronavirus with an ethnic group not only belies the act of nature that is virus development but also creates a Xenophobic understanding of the ethnicity. The Chinese are no more directly responsible for the rise of the virus than Mexicans are for swine flu, or the Congolese are for Ebola. The American government didn't call these the'Mexican virus' or 'Congolese virus' at the time. COVID should have been no different. 

Such xenophobic labels are not only racist but also dangerous. Anger about the pandemic has led to people lashing out at Asians, as was reported from London, where a 23-year-old Asian student was beaten by a group of men who yelled, 'I don't want your coronavirus in my country.' The unnecessary label to refer to a virus only caused further strife, tension, and division in the US and abroad. 

Suzanne (No) 

In the current outrage culture America has inhabited for the last several years, it was no wonder yet another thing had been labeled 'racist.' Democrats Ilhan Omar and Kamala Harris tweeted that calling COVID-19 the 'Chinese virus' was 'racist' and 'dangerous.' But the problem with this is twofold: if we start labeling everything as racist, the label loses value. Second, this claim is hypocritical and is a clear partisan attempt by one party to continually demean the other as racist. Until President Trump referenced COVID-19 by that accurate descriptor, countless others in the media had also called it the 'Chinese coronavirus,' the 'Wuhan coronavirus,' or some similar variation

Referring to COVID-19 as the 'Chinese/Wuhan virus' isn't about demonizing people of a particular ethnicity. It's about highlighting the virus's true and accurate origin. This is historically/globally precedented for many other viruses, such as the West Nile virus, German measles, Hong Kong flu, and Ebola. But more importantly, as it relates to COVID-19, it's about the Chinese government's horrific mishandling of this situation. China's deception and suppression of its citizens for 'spreading rumors' created yet another China-originated global epidemic

What's more alarming than the constant claims of 'racism' by politicians and media pundits is that they're more inclined to back the obvious propaganda from the authoritarian, human-rights-abusing communist Chinese regime. Moreover, calling COVID-19 the 'Chinese virus' was a direct refutation of China's attempt to blame the spread on the US, thus, shifting their responsibility for the outbreak. In the end, it was right for Trump and the media to call COVID-19 what it is: the Chinese virus. It's a condemnation of the regime, not the people.

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