During a phone interview with Fox News on Tuesday night, Donald Trump again referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as the “China virus.” The former president used the racist term prior to a white gunman venturing out on a deadly shooting spree in Georgia, targeting Asian-owned spas.
In an interview with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump said: “We got [the economy] to a level that the world has never seen before. We were the envy of the world and then when we got hit by the—as I call it the China virus, COVID—it obviously went down with every other economy.”
As a result of the attack, eight people were killed, six of which were Asian American women. Police arrested 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long in connection with the shootings, all of which happened an hour apart at three separate spas located in the metro Atlanta area.
Trump’s usage of the anti-Chinese slur “China virus” and “kung flu” began last year as the pandemic ravaged our everyday routines, further exposing the vast inequities minority communities face across the globe.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Trump spent the better part of a year using a virus as a slur against Chinese people while hate crimes against Asian Americans spiked by 150 percent,” Vox journalist Aaron Rupar tweeted.
“Top Chef” host Padma Laskshmi, who migrated to America from India at the age of four, also expounded on Trump’s usage of the racial slur.
On Tuesday night as individuals mourned, the hashtag #StopAsianHate trended on social media.
In the midst of a pandemic, Black and minority communities continue to grapple with repeated vigilante and police violence.
Because words actually mean things, they can also infiltrate the collective consciousness, especially when racial slurs are used by a sitting president. In the past two months, hate crimes against Asian communities have spiked resulting in grandmothers, grandfathers and young people of AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) descent being subjugated to random, yet targeted threats.
The violence on Tuesday directly impacted women who are affected the most. Asian women are routinely stereotyped as docile and subservient, as well as sensual and erotic.
“We are appalled and devastated at the violence in Georgia that has taken eight lives, six of whom were Asian American women,” National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow said in a released statement. “We mourn with the families of these victims. We are horrified and continue to be concerned for the safety of our community members across the country as violence toward Asian Americans has escalated. Elected officials in Georgia must support these families and speak up immediately against hate and violence directed at the Asian American community.”
“We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Asian hate and violence disproportionately impacts women. More than 68 percent of reported incidents of anti-Asian harassment and violence have been from women,” Choimorrow continued. “New polling commissioned by NAPAWF has revealed that nearly half of Asian American and Pacific Islander women have been affected by anti-Asian racism in the past two years. This comes as no surprise. Even before the pandemic and the racist scapegoating that came in its wake, AAPI women routinely experienced racialized misogyny. Now, our community, and particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs, are bearing the brunt of continued vilification.”
While law enforcement maintains Long was a porn addict who targeted locations that he frequented as a result of his addiction, the majority of his victims belonged to a community with a rich and storied legacy.
The fact that eight people were killed, the majority of whom were Asian Americans, cannot be understated or denied. The ramped-up violence against AAPI community members is one that should be examined under the lens of language and how it can be used to officiate more vigilante violence against minority community members.