opinion

OPINION: Trump, conservative news outlets are racist in handling of the coronavirus



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President Donald Trump listens to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx during a press briefing March 19 on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House. Tribune News Service

Since President Donald Trump began referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus” on March 16, which he also tweeted March 18, global citizens have criticized this reference, and rightfully so. The president even made a point to cross out “corona” in his notes for a conference March 20 and replaced it with “Chinese.”

Meanwhile, right-wing news outlets have stood by him, as well as his constituents. If Americans do not denounce such bigotry now, it will only continue and fuel the power of the far-right by normalizing such chauvinistic behavior.

Since news broke of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, anti-Asian bigots have emphasized its origin. The first known cases originated in China and have since spread across the globe. The virus has incited a global pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen since the Spanish influenza in 1918.

The Trump administration and conservative news outlets, such as Fox News, have not helped the social climate during this pandemic.

Fox News representatives Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham only pointed fingers at the Chinese government, further diverting from the faults of other governments during this time, and solely focusing on a country where the virus originated. 

“President Trump’s allies on Fox News, with the exception of Carlson, were inclined to take the same stance that the president himself promoted,” Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post said in an article discussing the “blame-shifting” of Trump and Fox News. “The novel coronavirus, which had sickened and killed thousands of people worldwide, was no worse a threat than the seasonal flu.”

While there is a point of origin, China is not to blame. It continues to send supplies to other countries to fight the pandemic, and has flattened the curve of infection rates.

Currently, Americans are struggling to even get tested and failing to listen to federal guidance or learn from the inactivity of other countries by practicing extreme social-distancing, cleanliness and less travel. The current administration is responsible for this. Trump, along with his media allies, downplayed the severity of the virus until the point of inevitability.

Trump’s comments continue to support racist beliefs, giving bigots across the country the opportunity to openly display their distaste for members of the Asian community.

Vox reporters have been shedding light onto the effects of Trump’s racist rhetoric on the Asian American community. They, along with others such as The New York Times, continue to interview Asian Americans about their experiences with racially-motivated verbal and physical assaults. 

A video posted on Twitter on Feb. 24 went viral, showing a 68-year-old Asian man being robbed and verbally and physically assaulted. This has only escalated one month later.

The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council of San Francisco State University launched a website for people to report such hate crimes, and tracks news reported on the connection between the coronavirus and hate crimes. Between Feb. 9 and March 7 alone, the council found a 50% increase in reports.

In addition, the controversy surrounding the coronavirus adds to the conversation on the treatment of past links between communities and other viruses.

The flu is not referred to as the European or American virus, though its first cases were in Europe and America. Yet, other viruses that are connected to marginalized communities are given negative associations. 

The viruses that happen to affect or originate from marginalized populations, such as how AIDS was to the gay community and Ebola is to Africans, are forever connected to these peoples simply because they do not adhere to global societal norms and were widely affected by such pandemics.

Global citizens from countries outside of Asia must evaluate how western media is portraying the Asian community amid the virus and denounce such behavior. It is our civic duty to stand alongside one another, no matter our identity, to combat the flames of hate amid the current pandemic.

Kailyn Hilycord (she/her) is a senior studying journalism, English and music. She plans to pursue graduate studies in journalism.

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