Massachusetts residents Jessica Wong, front left, Jenny Chiang and Sheila Vo, from the state’s Asian American Commission, stand together during a protest on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston, objecting to misinformation aimed at Asian communities about the coronavirus pandemic. (Steven Senne/AP) In March, as the pandemic began to affect the United States, President Trump gave a speech at which a photographer captured his podium notes. The photo showed that Trump had used a Sharpie pen to replace the term “Corona Virus” with “ Chinese virus ” — a phrase he has used frequently since, alternating it with variants like “ Kung Flu .” We offer new evidence that such racialized language has prompted many Americans to blame Chinese Americans for covid-19. But it’s done more: Other Americans have reacted by turning against Trump, including some likely supporters.
Blaming foreigners for disease is an old strategy
Trump’s goal in using “Chinese virus” seems to be to avoid blame for the pandemic by redirecting anger toward China . Trying to avoid blame is nothing new in politics. Research often finds that politicians blame other politicians or public or private service providers when they want to escape blame. Foreigners are often blamed for new diseases.
But framing the pandemic as a foreign problem violates international guidelines . The World Health Organization recommends against naming viruses after specific regions because it can lead people to unfairly stigmatize ethnic groups. In the United States, Asian Americans worry that such racialized language will make them the target of public ire.
Along with our co-authors, political scientists Asmus Olsen and Jason Anastasopolous , we conducted a […]