The COVID-19 Disease is Not Called the "Chinese Virus"

It may not be racist to call this disease the “Chinese Virus,” but you are certainly promoting xenophobia each time you do, and here’s why.

All countries affected by COVID-19 as of 3/21/20 according to

What is the big deal? Coronavirus COVID-19 has swept the world since December 2019 causing a death toll of over 15,000. It is the first classified pandemic since the H1N1 “Swine Flu” in 2009, and in four months COVID-19 has already surpassed the death toll during the first 12 months of the Swine Flu (around 12,500). COVID-19 should be taken seriously and it should be called what it is.

Before I dive into the name debate, I’ll say that at the end of the day, nobody is going to hinder anyone’s Freedom of Speech, and that’s not what I care to do. I respect the first Amendment AND political correctness. I just want readers to understand what we’re saying when we’re saying it. I am here to explain my reasoning for why the COVID-19 coronavirus should not be called the “Chinese Virus.” *These views are my own. I cannot speak for all of Top Shelf Takes. Top Shelf Takes does really hate the Coronavirus, though.*

Why is it called COVID-19 anyway? “CoV” comes from the official abbreviation for and coronavirus, and this strand of the virus was discovered and had its outbreak in 2019. Easy enough name honestly. Makes sense. The Director for the World Health Organization (WHO) also had this to say in his announcement of the name on February 11, 2020: “Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease”... I bolded the most relevant parts of the statement.

The arguments I’ve heard lately justifying calling COVID-19 “the Chinese Virus” are as follows:

  • It isn’t racist because Chinese technically isn’t a race.
  • Past diseases were named after where they came from, so we can call this one the Chinese Virus.
  • China blamed the US military for spreading the virus.
  • Democrats only think it’s wrong because Trump said it.

None of the first three statements are objectively incorrect, and the last one is a big yikes, but I’ll break each one down.

It isn’t racist because Chinese technically isn’t a race.

If you have to justify why what you just said is not racist, you should probably just say something else. The argument here is that “Chinese” is a nationality, rather than race, like “American” is to those in the US…. Let’s not forget, Xenophobia isn’t the same as racism, and you can still be xenophobic despite this debate. The definition of xenophobia is, “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.” So yes, making a joke or going out of your way to change the name of a deadly virus to target a nation’s people is inherently promoting prejudice against people from another country, whether that is your intent or not.

Past diseases were named after where they came from, so we can call this one the Chinese Virus.”

It is true that some pandemics throughout history have been named after the area where they were discovered. However, the only two in the past FIFTY (50) years are MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola (named for the Ebola river in Africa, which was thought to be closest to the village where the virus was discovered). Notice how neither are named after a specific country? Want to know the reason they chose “Ebola” rather than the actual village the virus was discovered in? Fear of stigmatizing the people of the village. Good on them. To add further, the names of those pandemics in history named for their host country were actually the official names of the diseases before naming rules were set in place. So by the same logic in the claim above, the official name for the current coronavirus outbreak is COVID-19. Call it that.

China blamed the US military for spreading the virus.”

Who actually cares? Look, I get it. Nationalism. I love America too, but one reply from the President saying the disease is not from America would have been more than enough to answer that claim considering it is very obviously identified by the World Health Organization and the CDC that the virus began in Wuhan, China. You don’t have to defend yourself as an American, and the President does not need to continue going out of his way to promote xenophobia among his supporters. See below: Trump going out of his way to promote xenophobia in America.

Close-Up of Donald Trump crossing out “Corona” adding “Chinese” in a Press Briefing 3/19/2020

Democrats only think it’s wrong because Trump said it.

I’m going to just break down my responses to this one in a list, because it was just bad overall. Hard to read. Harder to type out myself.

  1. Super massive generalization here… I just saw this one in a comment section online and felt the need to defend the left, so here we are. There are probably Democrats that don’t care or don’t think it’s that deep what you call it. There are also Republicans that don’t think it should be called the “Chinese Virus.” The head of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, Cliff Li, even said, “I wish he didn’t say that, because it could cause some racists in the country to misread it.” Be more like Cliff.
  2. I am not a Democrat, and I still agree it’s wrong. Big snowflake energy here, but respecting other people is actually kind of cool.
  3. Lastly, calling it the “Chinese Virus” is wrong when anyone says it, not just the President. Oh CNN said it so it’s okay? Are you telling everything CNN says is factually accurate after I just listened to complaints for three years calling them Fake News? Let’s all agree that no American news source or entertainment network has the power to decide what terms are politically correct or not.

Call it “COVID-19,” “Coronavirus,” “The Rona,” “The Only Thing Between Me and the Bar Next Door,” just stop calling it the “Chinese Virus” and PLEASE wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in hot water and stay safe and healthy out there.

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