Calling COVID-19 a China Virus Is Bad for Comal ISD Students, Expert Says
What’s wrong with calling COVID-19 the “China virus?”
Comal ISD Board of Trustees President David Drastata, a Walmart executive and San Antonio Chamber of Commerce board member, apologized last night for an Aug. 17 email to Canyon High School Athletic Booster Club parents that referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”
The reaction to the article, which was shared on MyCanyonLake.com’s Facebook page, was swift:
- “I wonder if we don’t have more to fear from political correctness than COVID-19”
- “Why do you need to apologize for telling the truth? Don’t cave to the liberal agenda – it’s cowardly.”
- “Are students allowed to learn about the Spanish flu or is that off the table?”
- “Just quoting a phrase our president of Muhrica says a lot.”
- “Have some spine for god’s sake.”
- “Total BS”
- “Why? The virus is from China is it not?”
John Yang is president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, or Advancing Justice-AAJC, a Washington D.C.-based civil rights group that runs Stand Against Hatred, a website Asian Americans can use to self-report racism.
He said in an interview today that he finds the use of the term “China virus” disturbing and worries about its effect on students.
As schools reopen, children who have hunkered down since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic will share their experiences for the first time, and Advancing Justice-AAJC already is seeing incidents of bullying against Asian-American students.
He points to a July 2020 Pew Research Center survey that four-in-ten Black and Asian adults say people have acted as if they were uncomfortable around them because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning of the outbreak. They worry that other people might be suspicious of them if they wear a mask when out in public.
“On one level many public officials have gotten better (about using the term China virus),” he said. “But on another level officials should know better at this point. Again, it is the effect that it’s having on the community as a whole and especially in this context as we’re thinking about opening of schools.”
Yang said the issue isn’t just semantics — it’s also about safety.
The focus should remain on finding a vaccine as well as protecting students from anti-Asian rhetoric.
“In a number of incidents people have referred to the China virus or Kung Flu,” he said. “There is a lot of blame being assigned to the Asian community as a whole…when you talk about the health aspect of this it’s very distracting to somehow think that you have to focus on China. As you know this virus has spread worldwide. There is nothing to suggest we are transmitters. We need to focus on finding a vaccine for the virus. What we can do to minimize the spread of it and not get caught up in things that might distract from that.”
School districts without large populations of Asian Americans might be unable to reach a “critical mass” that would correct stereotypes about the coronavirus.
“My fear would be that in communities that have a small Asian-American community, that ability to self-correct becomes a little more difficult,” he said.
As for the Spanish flu, he pointed out it was Kansas, not Spain that spread the virus in the United States. Troops stationed there fanned out across the country.
Spain was one of the few European countries that remained neutral during World War I, and U.S. wartime censors worried the spread of the flu would affect morale. Spanish newspapers had no such concerns, and were free to report about that global pandemic in gory detail, according to history.com.
“The Spanish, meanwhile, believed that the virus had spread to them from France, so they took to calling it the ‘French Flu,'” History.com reported.