Although the controversy over President Trump calling the current pandemic the Chinese Virus is the reason this post exists, I hope to use it to make some universal points.
A friend of mine retweeted this:
Yes, it originated in China, but the technical term is Covid-19
Your mom originated from the back of a Buick Skylark, but we call her Judith
Don’t be mean.
— Brunette Bohemian (@RaeOfLite) March 18, 2020
And here is a screen shot, in case the tweet ever becomes unavailable:
Considering these are my present Facebook and Twitter bios, I am 100% behind “Don’t be mean”:
“Be kind” and “don’t be mean” seem pretty equivalent, eh? 🙂
Ignoring the non sequitur in the original tweet, I want to speak to the claims that using “Chinese Virus” hurts individuals of Chinese decent.
Whenever someone claims that saying X or Y will lead (or has led) to bigoted acts, almost always it is without evidence or with only anecdotal examples. However, because they’ve made that assertion, the only acceptable moral action is to acquiesce and stop using the term.
But…leveraging this situation…
- I have yet to see a single example.
- If provided one, how would we know it was specifically caused by folks saying, “Chinese Virus”? There is no question that there is prejudice against Asians, but those idiots would do their idiotic stuff regardless. Additionally, do we think calling it COVID-19 instead would somehow mean they didn’t know it originated in China?
- Even if I stipulate that there will be some cases where the President’s (and others’) use of “Chinese Virus” will lead to bigoted behavior, unless it is significant we cannot make decisions based on it. As I’ve often said, a very large number (e.g. > 300M Americans) times a very small percentage will lead to a quantifiable (and perhaps “shocking”) number. Anything that could be taken negatively by anyone would suddenly be verboten, because there will always be at least a handful of bozos out there. And, by the way, saying (directly or indirectly) that anyone who uses the term is a racist…do you think that might lead to bigoted behavior? Lead to people being mean? (Oh, and don’t forget what hoaxes can cause when small numbers are allowed to drive responses.)
- Finally, context does matter. The CCP is directly responsible for the severity and spread of the pandemic with their, arguably, criminal behavior. People all over the world are dying because of them. If there is any time to fight the language police, it’s when it is being used nefariously to control the narrative. You can almost guarantee that is happening whenever something that was perfectly acceptable suddenly (i.e. overnight) is deemed evil. Some used “Chinese Virus” and “Wuhan Virus” because it was perfectly acceptable until last week. The President is using it to fight CCP propaganda. Neither is racist nor otherwise wrong.
- Those who claim something need to provide evidence. (They have the burden of proof.)
- The evidence needs to prove causation, not just correlation.
- Small numbers in large populations are not meaningful.
- Context matters.
Other than when discussing the controversy around it, I do not personally call it the Chinese Virus, instead using Coronavirus or COVID-19 (although, I kind of like the suggestion it be called the CCP Virus). So, why did I wade into this?
Well, I am not entirely sure. I am sick of people using “Racist!!!” as a weapon. I loathe the politically correct language police. I cringe when folks abuse math and/or logic, even unintentionally.
Finally, I do not question that many say what they do out of genuine concern (including the original tweeter). God bless those who also want others to “be kind” and advise “don’t be mean.” I suspect Jesus covered them in, “Blessed be the peacemakers…”
And may God watch over you and yours, keeping you healthy both physically and financially, as we all do our best to handle the unprecedented COVID-19 situation.
P.S. I do want to make a final comment around “small numbers in large populations are not meaningful.” I do not mean they are unimportant. Every single act of prejudice should be dealt with and every individual affected matters. However, overall policy and actions cannot be driven by outliers.
P.P.S. Just after I posted this, it hit me that I hadn’t spoken to the argument that it such a minor thing to stop calling it the Chinese Virus, why not just do it? I would suggest that that falls under “context matters.” If I know something bugs you personally and it is inconsequential for me to avoid it, even if you are being unreasonable…sure, I’ll avoid it. You are more important.
But, again, the context of this (and many other PC language police situations) is such that it actually is consequential to give in. Those who control words control much more than just words.