Calling out xenophobia in “China virus”

Iyko Day, associate professor of English

By Keely Sexton

Iyko Day, associate professor of English, appeared on WGBY’s Connecting Point to talk with host Carrie Saldo about the racism behind calling the new coronavirus the “China virus.” 

On considering why President Trump would refer to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” Day noted that the administration often uses such divisive language to deflect attention away from our elected leaders and to demonize minority populations. 

“We have this idea that Chinese are dirty, diseased, spread contagion,” said Day. “In the 19th century, that kind of language and those kinds of ideas and stereotypes were part of a white nativist ideology that justified Chinese immigrant exclusion for over half a century.”

The framing also elucidates a greater insecurity around American standing in the world relative to China, she said. 

“Trump’s attempts at scapegoating the disease is really symptomatic of the decline of U.S. global dominance and fears that China will overtake the U.S. as a global leader.”

Watch the clip.