We at DCFPI stand in solidarity with our Asian neighbors and friends and reject the misinformation amplifying racial discrimination in the region and across the country. Despite recent backtracking, you may have heard the President and White House officials refer to the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” Not only is this a racist, xenophobic take on a global public health crisis, it’s also inaccurate and fails to capture the complex systems that accelerated the spread of the virus. Fortunately, the District’s response to this lethal pandemic has been rooted in compassion and science, rather than racism and bigotry.
It may feel like forever ago, but the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak brought many rumors claiming the virus spread through unsanitary conditions around fish markets, spearheading a false narrative that Asian people and Asian food were highly contagious. This narrative particularly targeted the Chinese community. Subsequently, Chinese-owned businesses, including restaurants in our region, faced declining revenue long before the Mayor mandated restaurants to limit sales to to-go and delivery. These businessowners now face the challenges of both surviving a global pandemic and racial discrimination.
To combat this narrative, the Asian American Journalists Association urges any coverage of COVID-19 to include “accurate and fair portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans and to avoid fueling xenophobia and racism that have already emerged since the outbreak.” The Washington Post’s coverage of the historic pattern in America of using diseases to justify xenophobia of communities of color and ethnic groups, and the historic discrimination of Chinese Americans, is also useful context to include in any COVID-19 coverage.
Thankfully, several representatives across the nation are pushing back against the President’s narrative and reminding citizens of the vital roles Asian communities play in our society and economy. Nevertheless, it’s the responsibility of everyone to recognize the racial implications created by misinformation. We’re in this together. As a city, we must ground ourselves in our moral duties and support the communities enduring the additional trauma of this pandemic.