Let’s begin with this fact: Donald Trump is a racist.
Trump’s vile rhetoric has been directly implicated in the uptick in hate crimes that’s occurred around the country since he took office, and it has put countless people of color and religious minorities in harm’s way. In fact, Trump’s frequent demonization of Mexicans and asylum seekers from the southern border helped incite one of the worst mass killings in American history, carried out by a white supremacist terrorist in El Paso, Texas, last year.
So it should have come as no surprise to anyone this week, that as the coronavirus crisis continued to rapidly deepen in the United States, Trump decided to again turn to racism – consequences to Asian American-communities be damned – as he started suddenly insisting on referring to the virus ravaging the world as the “Chinese Virus.”
This wasn’t an accidental, improvised, or off-the-cuff choice. It was deliberate. A photo by Jabin Botsford, a staff photographer at The Washington Post, showed Trump’s prepared remarks altered, the word “Corona” crossed out and the word “Chinese” added in sharpie.
Even when pressed on his word choice by ABC News’ Cecilia Vega during a live White House briefing, the Racist-In-Chief doubled down and said his description was “accurate.”
Except it’s not.
The official name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2, so named because of the genetic link it shares with the virus that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak. The disease the new virus causes is called COVID-19, and that or “coronavirus” is how most people now refer to the virus itself.
The first transmission of COVID-19 from an animal to a human took place in China, that is true. But a virus has no national origin or nationality or respect for borders; this one is now believed to have originated from bats, possibly transmitted to a pangolin, then to humans. But you won’t hear Trump calling this the “Bat Virus” or the “Pangolin Virus.”
There is a reason for Trump’s sudden focus on the geographical origin of the virus, of course. As the utterly catastrophic nature of his and his administration’s months-long downplaying of the blooming threat and Trump’s ensuing willful paralyzing of our government’s response comes into clearer view, he needs someone to blame for his fatal mistakes.
I mean, let’s get serious. Trump is the guy that up until just a few weeks ago was still mocking the coronavirus a “Democratic hoax.” He then bizarrely bragged he’d “stopped it” and that the cases would soon go down to “zero.” Trump promised us millions of tests by last week, even though only a handful Americans can get tested as the number of cases is exploding.
But since Trump refuses to take responsibility for any of that, he’d rather do what all racists do: scapegoat someone else.
Assuredly, there were calamitous faults in the Chinese government’s attempted cover up as the viral outbreak first began. There have also been credible reports of China having been less than transparent about the scope and scale of things before being forced to put the nation on strict lockdown. That seems to have halted the spread of the virus there finally, at least for the moment.
But the unfolding global catastrophe is ultimately not the doing of China or America, or even Trump. It’s of humanity itself. We’re all to blame.
In every corner of the Earth, humans have continually waged an undeclared war on all other animals.
We eat animals, we wear them, we cage them and kill them. We confine them in wet markets and factory farms. We relentlessly hunt them down and traffic them across borders, intrude in and destroy their habitats. This relentless exploitation has already led to some of the deadliest disease outbreaks in human history: tuberculosis, H1N1, and Ebola, just to name a few.
I understand that right now we need to focus on getting through this global crisis. There are going to be unimaginably painful days ahead for us all. But when this nightmare is finally over, it is time for humanity to have a serious come to Jesus moment with how we treat those with whom we share this planet.
It’s time for us to, at long last, end the war on the animals. If we don’t, we only have ourselves to blame when this happens again. And next time, it might be the virus that wins.