Johnson: Rhetoric surrounding coronavirus


With less than 40 days until the election, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will take to the debate stands for the first time Tuesday night.

Zachary Johnson

President Donald Trump has notably been referring to COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” and what makes this wrong is not the historical, geographical or medical precedent for this but instead that it is overlooking the main point of the matter.

Trump and his supporters have made the moral argument that by calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” they are simply following medical precedent in addition to only being accurate as far as the true origin of the virus. The Trump administration has also criticized the Chinese government (in addition to criticizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for not reacting in what it would have seen as the proper way to the outbreak.

This criticism is relative from an administration that has a full history of being critical of just about every institution except for the one of which he is in charge. The Trump approach to relief for this pandemic has gone back and forth between leaving things to the states and allowing the federal government to take the lead. Trump seems to only want the federal government to take control when it gives him more power and yet when it comes to testing, he has pitted the states against each other making competition for extremely important medical resources and driving up prices. This increase in prices is not what the country needs at the moment, it needs relief.

At the end of the day, however, the president needs to be giving off the right messaging in this time of crisis, and the rhetoric he uses is as important as ever. Trump’s mantra throughout his candidacy as well as his presidency has been to buck the “political correctness” that the left has so readily adopted. Even those who do not think the president to be a racist, sexist, homophobe, etc. must at least admit that he does not have the sensitivity of the typical politician, and this is my issue with the use of the term “China Virus.”

Say that you want to be medically accurate or that you want to simply identify geographically where this virus came from all you want, but using this term contributes to discrimination felt by not only Chinese Americans but Asian Americans broadly. Asian style restaurants have been disproportionately hit by the economic fallout of this virus, and there are anecdotal stories of Asian Americans being especially avoided and disgusting violence being inflicted solely based on the perception of their race and the perception that this virus afflicts these people more, which is categorically false.

This administration must speak out against this and take a more compassionate line when talking about the virus and should perhaps refer to this virus by the name that the scientific community has given it.