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Trump’s toxic use of ‘Chinese virus’ puts people in danger

You’ve probably seen the photo of Trump’s modified speech, where he crossed out “Corona” and wrote in “Chinese.” This was a deliberate provocation, and he said as much even before the pictures were out. He’ll doubtless use it again in his upcoming press conference. But even if Trump is not a hateful bigot — and there’s every reason to believe he is — then at the least, he’s unacceptably tolerant of bigotry and insensitive to how he is fomenting it. He is endangering people who look like my wife, my children, and many of my friends.

I’ve already heard and read dozens of anecdotes, including several from my own close friends, about incidents of overt racism toward people who look “Chinese” — even though they may be of Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, or another East Asian ancestry.

This is a country where turbaned Sikhs, of the Sikh religion from Punjab, were gunned down in American streets after 9/11 and San Bernardino. Sikhs are not Muslim, of course, but bigots all hopped up on vengeful patriotic fervor didn’t know or care. And just the same, they’re not going to know or care if the person they’re targeting out of a misplaced “revenge” isn’t actually Chinese. Nor will they ascertain your views on the CCP, or on Trump, and spare you if you hate the former and love the latter. Not how it works.

This is, let me also remind you, a well-armed country where I can promise you that the correlation between bigotry and gun ownership is shockingly high. That’s not to say that most gun owners are bigots. But racists in this country have a higher propensity to own guns.

One thing that truly frustrates me is that many Chinese people, out of their own opposition to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or to Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, are defending or actually encouraging the use of Trump’s phrase “Chinese virus.” This is, in effect, giving permission to the others who want to popularize this word — who can then point to their “Chinese friend” who condones or endorses the use.

There are also people who, for some bizarre reason, insist that anyone pointing out the hate being whipped up by Trump is also obliged to criticize Beijing for early missteps, or praise Dr. Lǐ Wénliàng 李文亮, or attack Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 or other people who have spread conspiracy theories. This expectation is nonsense. What’s at issue here for me, and I hope for all Americans, is the impact on Americans of East Asian ancestry. Your views on China’s culpability, or its propaganda efforts, are another wholly separate matter.

As many people do, you can absolutely detest the CCP and every aspect of its handling of the virus, but still emphatically oppose Trump’s use of this phrase.

See also: Despite what Trump says, my Chinese students are not the face of this virus in the Guardian

—Kaiser Kuo

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Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser Kuo is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and editor-at-large of SupChina.

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