Medical officers, scientists, even the World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to the current pandemic as Coronavirus, but not some powerful world leaders, who have used this opportunity to stigmatize a particular disease. We still have not learnt anything from history, Have we?
Amidst the world combatting the Coronavirus pandemic, the infamous part-time President, full-time “Twitterati” Donald Trump took to Twitter to address COVID-19 as “The Chinese Virus”. While in the same tweet he also said, that the United States of America would continue supporting the worst hit industries, like Airline and Travel Industry, where he completely ignored the dearth of funds the US healthcare system has been facing, the worst part still remains him nationalizing Coronavirus.
The US has been struggling to deal with the pandemic since Day 1, and Trump’s blame game has only jeopardized the situation more. Earlier, Trump blamed ex-President Barack Obama for the rise in number of cases in the States (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Followed by Trump then blaming WHO, his own medical officers and ministers, and well now China. It is confirmed that the first case of Coronavirus was found in China, but does that make the virus Chinese? Trump’s own Secretary went on record to condemn Trump’s racist views as the virus is not propagated by any ethnicity or nationality, but Trump’s views do propagate Xenophobia.
While being asked to comment on his racist remarks of calling the virus Chinese, Trump refuted all accusations by saying, “The only reason I call the virus Chinese is because it originated from China. Whatever I said is not racist. Not racist at all.” Now, the question that persists is why the Coronavirus being called Chinese is extremely wrong?
There are two answers to that question, and both of which lie in power dynamics. Firstly, history has been the witness that whenever a disease or a pandemic has been stigmatized to particular ethnicity or nationality, it has led to catastrophic consequences. In the 14th Century, Jewish people were blamed for the outbreak of Black Death in Europe, and they were killed in great numbers. Again in 19th century Irish Catholic immigrants were blamed for spreading Cholera to the US, and thus were thrown in detention camps and faced mass killings. If you still don’t understand the relation of stigmatization of disease and its effect on people and national policy. In 1876, a group of Chinese people living in San Francisco became the scapegoat for smallpox outbreak which prompted the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act.
While Trump may just be following the past narrative of naming diseases on the place of their origin, like Ebola, The Zika Virus, and more, what he doesn’t realize is that the world already has realized their mistake of stigmatizing diseases. Therefore, in 2015, WHO laid down the guidelines for naming a disease to avoid exactly what Trump is doing right now. Owing to the ideology that Trump preaches, the Asian-American, specially the Chinese-American community are facing tremendous violence, hate and daily racism. This phenomenon is also evident in India, where several harassment and racism cases have been reported against the North-Eastern citizens.
Secondly, calling the virus Chinese helps Trump to put the entire accountability of failure of the US health infrastructure on China. It also defers people from asking questions to Trump and his health policy, to hating China. Unfortunately, this has been proven true, with now the conspiracy debate around China using Coronavirus as a weapon being more surfaced than questions regarding the poor healthcare system, and how our politicians do not deem to invest in it but would spend all its budget on statues.
The Coronavirus sees no nationality, no ethnicity, no race, it just sees immediate health action plan. Whenever a disease has spread, shameful incidents of xenophobia and stigmatization have been written in history. Trump’s desperate efforts of playing the blame game, and nationalizing the suffrage of people, just shows the ideology of a capital-driven right-wing President.
Feature Image Credits: Bangalore Mirror