Words Matter

People often say, “I don’t care what Trump says; I support his corporate tax cuts and Supreme Court nominees”. But is it true that words don’t matter?

Iris Li, an undergraduate student at Emory University, went back to China at the beginning of the pandemic. She has decided to stay there for the semester. Li said she was “incredibly scared” when she heard Trump started calling the coronavirus the “China virus,” and lived in “constant fear” that she would not be able to finish her study on site, since the pandemic is still rampant in the U.S. But she held a glimmer of hope that her humanities major would make her less of a target by the U.S. government.

Li’s friend, who studies computer science, was not so lucky. On September 9, Li received a photo of her friend’s defaced apartment door at Rice University, with the word “spy” written on it. “I don’t think her neighbors knew she studied computer science,” Li said. . . .

President Trump had reportedly claimed at a dinner party in 2018 that “almost every student that comes over” to the U.S. from China “is a spy.” . . .

Having spent two years in Colorado Springs, the playground for pro-Trump evangelical Christians, Angelina Chen is no stranger to hearing outbursts of “Go back to your country” directed at her and her Asian-looking friends from passing cars. But the undergraduate at Colorado College still sensed something different brewing in the air since the pandemic started. She felt the glares of more people and heard more murmurs upon entering non-Asian grocery stores. Going downtown for her internship was cause for fear that she would be targeted. She also suspected that people treated her differently once they realized she was from China.

Interesting to see evangelical Christians and “Go back to your country” in the same sentence. I recall back in 2001 when President Bush went out of his way to encourage people not to be prejudiced against Muslims. And that was right after 9/11! China did not bomb the US.

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