The Corner

PC Culture

A Pandemic of Political Correctness

In the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai, China, March 19, 2020 (Aly Song/Reuters)

During today’s meeting of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the liberal majority voted to issue a statement expressing “grave concern” regarding “growing anti-Asian racism and xenophobia” related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of course, my conservative colleague Gail Heriot and I oppose expressions of racism, if any, related to the pandemic or otherwise. But we voted against the statement for several reasons. Our biggest objection related to the Commission’s suggestion that referring to COVID-19 with terms like “Chinese Coronavirus or Wuhan flu” is somehow fueling “[t]his latest wave of xenophobic animosity toward Asian-Americans.” This suggestion is consistent with those recently voiced by Democrats and mainstream media (but I repeat myself).

It’s common to refer to infectious diseases by their geographic origin. Examples include Asian flu, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, German measles, Japanese encephalitis, Lyme disease, Marburg virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Pontiac fever, Rift Valley fever, Spanish flu, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, and West Nile virus. Spanish flu was probably a misnomer. It may have originated in Kansas. But calling it Spanish flu was never an indication that people hated Spaniards. Nor is there any evidence that the names of any of the other diseases inspired “racism or xenophobia” toward races or ethnicities commonly identified with such regions.

Calling COVID-19 “Chinese Coronavirus” is accurate. It originated in China. But it didn’t merely originate there. As Victor Davis Hanson has noted, China’s Communist Party rulers hid its outbreak from the rest of the world for several crucial weeks. They misrepresented its contagious nature for several more. They permitted thousands of Chinese nationals to travel throughout the world while obfuscating the potential consequences. And the Chinese government is falsely claiming the U.S. military is responsible for introducing the virus. Under those circumstances, to object to calling the virus “Chinese Coronavirus” is, to say the very least, profoundly misguided.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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