No One, Especially Not the President, Should Use Racial Terms in Describing COVID-19

Tonight the City Council will be voting on a Resolution proposed by Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Farrah Khan “in support of Irvine’s Asian American Community.”

The Resolution states that “In the weeks since the coronavirus spread to the United States, there has been a noted increase in bias incidents targeting Asians and Asian Americans.”  It notes that there have been at least two such incidents in Irvine.

But the Resolution makes no mention of President Trump’s repeated use of the term “Chinese virus” as a cause or incitement of these acts of hatred.

I first raised the issue of the COVID-19 outbreak and incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying of people thought to be Chinese at the Irvine City Council meeting on more than a month ago, on March 10.

I asked whether we needed to do more to educate the public about how racism and xenophobia will hurt us in this crisis, and that we are all in this together.

At the time, I was told that we had no reports of any such incidents in Irvine.

Nevertheless, I continued to be concerned, especially as reports increased of a surge in racially charged attacks unfairly directing blame for the pandemic on Asians and Asian Americans, while President Trump insisted on using the phrase “Chinese virus” when speaking of COVID-19.

As a public official in a city with a significant Asian American population, I was appalled by President Trump’s continued stoking of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian bigotry.

While the memo accompanying the Resolution states that “there is no common characteristic with the disease and human ancestry. It doesn’t have a race, nationality, or political ideology” and condemns the “acts of hatred” that have been directed toward Asians and Asian Americans as a result of falsely associating them with COVID-19, it does not even mention the racial language that President Trump has insisted on using to describe the virus.

I will gladly vote in favor of condemning bigotry and acts of hate against Asians and Asian Americans.

I would like it say that it is not acceptable for anyone —  especially not the President of the United States — to use the racial term “Chinese virus” when describing this deadly pandemic.