An odd sensitivity hovers over campus (or rather, what’s left of campus). Somehow, it is offensive to blame China for a disaster that is clearly China’s fault.
And by China, of course, I do not mean “people of Chinese descent,”, or even “Chinese citizens,” but rather the repressive Chinese Communist Party.
In February, Dean of Students Mona Hicks sent out an email warning of a “rise in xenophobia,” followed by the ASSU’s condemnation of the President’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” as “racist and xenophobic.”
Obviously, anyone who blames a person for a pandemic based on their ethnicity is not only morally reprehensible, but deeply misinformed regarding the laws of biology. Anyone hateful enough to commit such a fallacy deserves our most severe condemnation.
But it is foolish to grace such 'arguments' with too much attention, particularly on email chains where every recipient no doubt stands in agreement. In choosing to refute a straw-man argument, Stanford students have selected a fight in which they will always have the moral high ground, rather than one which can hope to achieve anything.
Unfortunately, Stanford is in good company. The WHO, for example, seems to be completely in China’s pocket, and helped sweep the pandemic under the rug. It credulously accepted Chinese state information at face value, such as their January 14 claim that there was ‘no evidence of human-to-human transmission.’
Yet, it still spared a few minutes to condemn Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” alleging it “fuels stigma.”
As the WHO well knows, diseases commonly take their names from their places of origin: arguments that the name “Chinese Virus” has to do with race or nationality are dishonest. Should we stop referring to the 1918 pandemic as Spanish Flu or, while we’re at it, that famed 1415 fight as Battle of Agincourt in case of offending French villagers? Is the name Lyme disease hurtful to the inhabitants of Old Lyme, Connecticut?
If anything, the name “China virus” is more appropriate than any of these, since the fault really does lie with China. Petty arguments over naming only serve as distractions from the CCP’s culpability.
China has been aware of this disease since at least November. Biomedical research has just begun, with drug trials in early stages. Imagine how different our lives would be if we had gone into vaccine trials in November or December instead. Countless lives and massive economic capital would have been spared. In fact, according to some estimates, if China had acted even three weeks earlier there would be no global pandemic.
But instead, for political purposes, China actively suppressed knowledge of the disease, and used their authoritarian government to silence doctors and journalists who tried to sound the alarm.
So remember, when you’re wondering why you aren’t enjoying a spring darty, or are trying to hang out with your friends over Zoom, or haven’t been outside your house for two weeks: there were Chinese citizens who tried to warn you, but “vanished” trying.
Amazingly, while American students are busy blaming each other for fueling racism, China’s own citizens seem to be growing dissatisfied with their government’s catastrophic mismanagement of the outbreak -- a remarkable feat in a country which polices all speech and brutally punishes political dissent.
Our education system has spent so long teaching us how to spot racism that even when true global disaster stands right in front of our noses, we can only point fingers back to our own xenophobia.
Some news sources have even gone so far as to label xenophobia, “an epidemic more dangerous than Coronavirus,” or “the actual danger” of the outbreak -- a ridiculous and sensationalist proposition given the already tremendous loss of human life and economic hardship which the disease, blind to the race of its victims, has incurred.
Some students have used the outbreak to defend China’s repressive government, proving them shamefully susceptible to Chinese propaganda. If only such students had the bravery or foresight which some Chinese citizens are displaying in denouncing poor governance.
It is frustrating to watch some of our most educated citizens kowtow to an overtly evil global power even as its repressive policies endanger our own citizens. As soon as one person cries “xenophobia!” the rest follow like sheep jumping over a cliff, not bothering to check if a wolf is really chasing them.