Why calling it ‘China virus’ stigmatizes our community

The Fearless Girl wears a mask.

By Cristina DC Pastor

The virus called Covid-19 is a public health pandemic that has darkened many countries around the world.

Broadway in the city of our dreams has turned eerily quiet since the outbreak, and Times Square, the tumultuous heartbeat of New York, is silenced as the disease tightened its claws on the gasping lungs of its people.

It is like someone designed a crippling ailment that attacks the desire of people to huddle together. The term “social distancing” is a tangled phrase. It strikes at the notion of being together to sing, to dance, to party, to celebrate the joy of life. But why keep your distance?

Nothing seems to bring home the sense of dark foreboding than the image of the Fearless Girl on Wall Street wearing a face mask. Connolly’s pub sat forlornly empty on St. Patrick’s Day when patrons would normally belly up to the bar where the spirits ran freely. Buses and subways are disinfected, and riders stand far from each other, adding to the sense of loneliness you feel in a city of strangers.

In the middle of this dark mood, we cannot give in to our dark impulses and deepening sense of despair. As FilAms who help other FilAms, we inspire one another with a basic truth: Together, we can be powerful than the petty hate around us.

As a community, we need to rise together and fight the misguided stereotyping against Asians. We need to assert that we are not spreaders of the virus, and there is no need to avoid us.  We need to contribute to the understanding that while the virus may have originated in China, it should not be called the “China virus” because it feeds on xenophobic fears that have resulted in Asians being sprayed with Febreze and Asian children being bullied in school.

The World Health Organization, in 2015, has called on authorities, leaders, and media to exercise caution in naming infectious diseases “to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people.” Naming them after the countries of origin “has had unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities or economic sectors.” The White House chooses not to listen.

Now is a time to affirm our humanity in binding up the public health crisis the world is going through. A time to exercise the simple virtues of reflection and humility.

Time will come when the ‘boys of summer’ will eventually return to fill our ballparks and the lights will come on again on Broadway. Life will return to normal, and so will the vibrancy of this country we call home. We will look back in the Winter of 2020 as a time our nation was tested and our Asian and Filipino communities watched out for each other and stood together against hate. It could be the one good thing that will come out of this pandemic.

(C) The FilAm 2020

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