Just when you think Donald Trump might be taking his job a tiny bit more seriously in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, the man in the White House can’t help but be racist.
After holding a press conference on Monday warning the nation of a possible recession, Trump hopped on Twitter and wrote, “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”
According to The Guardian, The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against language that connect the coronavirus to China or the city of Wuhan, where it was first detected, in order to prevent discrimination and stigmas against Chinese people.
Despite these warnings, Trump made time to use the term “Chinese Virus” again on Tuesday when he was taking shots at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Cuomo wants ‘all states to be treated the same.’ But all states aren’t the same,” tweeted Trump. “Some are being hit hard by the Chinese Virus, some are being hit practically not at all. New York is a very big ‘hotspot’, West Virginia has, thus far, zero cases. Andrew, keep politics out of it….”
Trump clearly continues to fan the flames of his racist followers linking a virus to a whole group of people and their nation, despite the virus having origins in animals (specifically bats), according to Live Science.
Since racism is fueled by ignorance, this would be the appropriate time to remind Trump (or anyone buying into his rhetoric) of the cornucopia of viruses Europeans brought to the Americas.
According to Science Magazine, in 1492, Christopher Columbus developed his first town on the island of Hispaniola, which is present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. When he arrived, the Taino had a population of about 60,000 and maybe even as many as 8 million. However, by 1548, the Taino population dipped drastically to less than 500 because they lacked immunity to pathogens brought by the Spanish. In other words, the Spanish brought plagues like the smallpox, measles, typhoid and influenza, according to The Washington Post.
Smallpox especially had a devastating impact on parts of present day Mexico, in particular the Aztec Empire where the population of its capital died by the thousands.
People of the Great Plains in the present-day United States were also impacted by smallpox, although not as much as the Aztec due to their more migratory hunter-gatherer habits. At the height of the smallpox epidemic of 1837 to 1838 along the Upper Missouri River, some Black foot bands suffered heavy casualties. However, the neighboring Gros Ventre people manage to escape the disease unscathed.
Even with smallpox wiping out entire populations in the Americas, it would still be problematic to call it the Spanish Virus because according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some historians date the disease back to the Egyptian Empire while some of the earliest writings about the disease appeared in India and China.
From a basic scientific perspective, indigenous people in the Americas were also hit hard by diseases like smallpox, measles, typhoid and influenza because they had no contact with it prior to the Spanish arriving. Therefore, their immune systems didn’t build up resistance to the virus over the years as it did with people east of the globe.
Over time, our immune systems along with the development of vaccines can help eradicate diseases like the coronavirus. This has happened before with diseases like measles and smallpox. For example, after vaccinations were developed and implemented, the measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, according to the CDC. The World Health Assembly declared the world free of smallpox in 1980.
With rigorous effort from medical professionals, scientists, governments and the community, the coronavirus can experience a similar fate and rhetoric that it’s inherently Chinese could be long forgotten. The first coronavirus vaccine trials are already underway, according to CNN.
Until major progress is made with treatment, it’s best to remember history and refrain from linking a virus to nationality or ethnicity.