Two days ago, President Donald Trump suddenly stopped referring to the Covid-19 coronavirus by its common name, which experts and laypeople and the president himself had been using for months, and started using a racist designation: the “Chinese virus.”
The world has been trying to move past the racist disease-naming conventions of the past in recent years, making it all the more telling that Trump has revived them in a moment of crisis. He might be annoyed that Chinese officials and media have, for their part, tried to blame the virus on America. He might want to deflect blame onto anybody else given the harsh criticism his administration has faced for being slow to respond to the outbreak.
But whatever the reason, it appears the term he’s been using — with all of its potentially dangerous consequences, particularly for Asian Americans — is now the preferred nomenclature of the White House.
Looking at Trump’s Twitter account, his megaphone to the nation, he tweeted about “coronavirus” about 40 times between January 24 (the first mention) and March 15. But on March 16, his rhetoric flipped: He hasn’t referred to the “coronavirus” at all and has instead tweeted using his new preferred racist name five times in the past two days.