On March 23, standing at the podium in the White House Briefing Room, President Donald Trump was asked whether or not using the term “Chinese virus” when referring to COVID-19 pandemic was racist or was inspiring recent violence against Asians.
“It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s why,” Trump said to punctuate the point. President Trump’s press briefings on COVID-19 are carried by millions and in multiple appearances, the President referred to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus.”
A reporter asked, “Do you think, using the term ‘Chinese virus’, that puts Asian-Americans at risk, that people might target them?”
“No, not at all,” Trump answered. “I think they probably would agree with it, 100 percent. It comes from China,” he added. The President’s press briefings on the COVID-19 crisis is viewed by millions.
Many political observers have pointed out that labeling the virus this way will only increase tensions between the two countries and encourage xenophobia.
President Trump has a long history of racism, racist comments and targeted words against almost every group that is not white Anglo-Saxon protestant. Asian-Americans have reported incidents of racial slurs and physical abuse over the perception that China caused COVID-19. Racism against Asian Americans has surged as the coronavirus sweeps the U.S., with reports of hate crimes averaging approximately 100 per day, according to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.). On television on March 31, Chu discussed the increased violence against Asians in the U.S. and confirmed that, “at least 1,000 hate crimes incidents being reported against Asian Americans” after the pandemic hit the U.S.
“The FBI assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities,” read a report compiled by the FBI’s Houston office and sent to local law enforcement across America. “The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.”
On March 27, the FBI warned of a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans because of coronavirus. On March 30, several members of Congress spoke out to address the issue and bring more attention to the FBI’s findings. Legislators included Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Grace Meng (D-NY).
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast