There is now a very stupid debate being waged over whether we should call COVID-19 “the Wuhan virus” and whether it is racist to draw any link between the pandemic and China. A number of high profile Democrats have made this issue a top priority. Representatives Ayana Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have taken it a step further and accused Americans of racism for allegedly refusing to eat at Chinese restaurants because of the virus. Other intellectuals and luminaries like Samantha Bee have weighed in, reiterating the claim that “tying coronavirus to China” is “racist.”
I say again: this is very stupid. Not to get technical, but “Chinese” isn’t a race. A person can hate China all he wants and though it might make him rude and mean and prejudiced, he still wouldn’t be racist. But nobody is proposing that we take this out on Chinese people generally. Nobody is going around saying that all Chinese people are infected. What some people are pointing out is the simple fact that the virus began its career in Wuhan, China. A great many illnesses are named after the places where they began or were discovered: West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, German measles, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, etc. Ebola is named after a river in Africa. We call the 1918 influenza pandemic “the Spanish flu” for no real reason at all. The flu didn’t start there, wasn’t discovered there, and didn’t hit Spain any harder than anywhere else. If Spain has to own a pandemic they didn’t start, why shouldn’t China own one they did start?
But there is more to this than the mere happenstance of Wuhan being the epicenter of the disease. The Chinese government is in many ways responsible for allowing the virus to spread so far and so rapidly. In the early days of the outbreak, they responded much like the Soviets did to Chernobyl. They moved slowly at first, seemingly more concerned with stopping the spread of information about the disease than stopping the spread of the disease itself. Medical experts were censored and doctors were prevented from warning the world and each other about the true severity of the illness. Some of the early whistleblowers are now dead. But the fact that there had to be whistleblowers in the first place should tell you what you need to know. Even now, people from within China are telling us that the government is still lying, still claiming it has everything under control when the reality is quite different.
Why shouldn’t we hang this around the Chinese government’s neck and make them wear it? Especially now that they are attempting to turn the tables and, outrageously enough, blame the US for creating the outbreak. Democrats are more than happy to echo communist propaganda if it means landing a blow on Trump. But even as someone who has been, to put it mildly, unimpressed with the Trump Administration’s response to the crisis so far, the fact is that this didn’t start with Trump. It started with China. And their dishonesty, misdirection, and propaganda made it far worse than it had to be.