|The Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) rejects the use of terms “Chinese virus”, “Wuhan virus” and “kung flu” to refer to COVID-19. This “otherization” of people of Asian ancestry only drives us further apart as a society and is counter-productive to promoting health and safety of our society.
Today, in Washington and nationwide, reports of hate crimes targeting Asian people are on the rise. In their best practices for naming diseases, the World Health Organization explicitly warns against naming diseases after locations, cognizant of the bigotry that could provoke. Viruses are not ethnic-specific, and people of Asian descent are no more likely than anyone else to carry or spread COVID-19. In times of uncertainty and heightened fear, all people, especially leadership, must be vigilant to not perpetuate negative stereotypes, nor promote prejudicial attitudes based upon race.
Further, by fixating upon race and country with the origin of a disease, we also fail to give proper thought as a global society to the conditions that bred the beginnings of COVID-19. Although the first case occurred in Wuhan, China, the entire world at-large must assess issues with wildlife encroachment, trade, and trafficking that promote the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Washingtonians recognize that we are members of a global community. All of us have a role in slowing the spread of disease, effectively and equitably responding to times of crisis, as well as preventing zoonotic diseases to begin with. If humankind can thoughtfully respond to the COVID-19 challenge, we can emerge from this crisis better learned and more prepared to thrive globally.