President Trump’s Inflammatory Language Puts Asians At Risk

Anna Ryu, Editor-In-Chief

“Japanese Man Assaulted by 8 Youths Outside NYC Subway for Being ‘Chinese’” 

September 27, 2020. A report from Newsweek highlights one of the latest high-profile cases of anti-Asian harassment and assault: a Japanese jazz pianist was left with a broken collarbone, fractured arm and shoulder, bruises covering his body and head, and trauma after a brutal attack just out of the New York City subway.

This is just one out of the countless stories that have emerged in the past half year, as hate crimes against Asians has exponentially increased in the country. The undeniable common thread between each and every one of these cases—the coronavirus.

The coronavirus has thrown shattering backlash onto Asian communities in the United States, propelled by overgeneralized assumptions that China is to blame for the pandemic, and that all East-Asians are Chinese.  

President Trump was known to egg on these dangerous mindsets through inflammatory language, consistently referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” “China plague,” and even the “Kung flu,” displaying a shockingly immature attitude and little interest in confronting the real problem at hand. Though he attempted to justify his deliberate diction, it did not change the fact that he directly contributed to the anti-Chinese (or rather, anti-Asian) sentiment that continues to infiltrate communities across the country.

With President Trump’s COVID-positive diagnosis, the world held its breath to see how a man who had said everything from “COVID is a hoax” to “it is what it is” (in response to being told that 1,000 Americans were dying every day in August) would respond after having the virus himself.

I must say his response has been utterly disappointing. Not necessarily surprising or unexpected. Simply disappointing. 

Following his discharge from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Trump released a four-and-a-half minute video regarding the general situation surrounding the pandemic, in light of his own positive COVID case, from his Twitter on October 7. After minutes of scattered statements regarding the coronavirus—including ambiguous promises for “cures” and “vaccines” that “have to get done… very soon”—he turned from his rosy praise of the U.S. to unmasked jabs at China. 

“It wasn’t your fault that this happened… it was China’s fault… and China’s going to pay a big price [for] what they’ve done to this country… what they’ve to the world… This was China’s fault. And just remember that.”

He then promptly ended his message with unexpected praise of the military, another vague promise to “get [us] the drug” which is “going to be free,” and an ominous “Good Luck.”

It isn’t hard to picture a scenario in which an individual, particularly an individual who has favorable views of the president, internalizes Trump’s words diverting any and all general blame for the pandemic onto China. The rhetoric that Trump employs not only places an ill-defined “fault” onto China, but absolves the U.S. from any of its own. This is dangerous, particularly for Chinese and East-Asian individuals in the country.

Anti-Asian sentiments have already been ravaging the country, especially in times where racial identities and relations are fragile topics in the spotlight. We could go without the childish finger-pointing—it does nothing constructive for this country and its inhabitants, but instead damages our potential for unity and cooperation. 

We are all living the same reality. The Chinese restaurant owner is living that reality. The Burmese family at Sam’s Club is living that reality. The Korean university student is living that reality. 

We won’t let divisive words distract us from the real problems that continue to propel this virus. Let’s continue washing our hands, social distancing, listening to the experts, and wearing our masks (to cover both the mouth and the nose).