Personally, I have no problem with President Trump’s labeling the current pandemic the “Chinese flu.” Like the Spanish flu (interestingly enough traceable back to France, Kansas, or China), he is simply following a time honored tradition. Likewise, the gnashing of teeth about closing the boarders as racist, xenophobia seems nothing more than the overwrought attacks of those suffering from Trump derangement syndrome. Closing the borders is also a time tested response that countries across the world are implementing right now. It also has the efficacy of making common sense. Moreover, despite the sometimes heated partisan exchanges infecting our governmental responses, by all appearances, most American political officials have been making good faith efforts to react to this crisis as best they can.
No, my ire is directed at those who for some unfathomable reason have chosen to bully and physically attack individuals of Asian descent by blaming them for the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council has reported approximately 650 anti-Asian racist and xenophobic acts, including racial slurs, coughing on, spitting on, verbal harassment, on-line hatred, and physical attacks. That is but from a single source over a single week period. This state of affairs is unacceptable.
For all the flack President Trump has taken for labeling the pandemic the Chinese flu, he unequivocally declared on March 23 via Twitter that Asian Americans are “amazing people,” and that we should “totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world.” He also noted that the virus was “NOT their fault in any way, shape or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it.” His comments are exactly right.
Our Declaration of Independence declares as a founding First Principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . .” In 1863, Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed this founding First Principle in the Gettysburg Address, when he explained that the nation was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” A few years later, we ratified the 14th Amendment which provides that all people are entitled to the equal protection of the law. The Civil Rights movement of the 20th century made much progress implementing civil rights legislation and combating racism. President Obama’s election was a watershed moment.
America’s dedication to equality is truly revolutionary. Before 1776, all governments on earth were dedicated to maintaining inequality between people. Kings, nobility, theocracies, caste systems, and similar divisions involved a very tiny minority oppressing the great mass of people. Since then, Nazi Germany and South Africa’s apartheid created race-based societies. Communism exulted totalitarian dictatorships to implement the mass slaughter of the disfavored classes. The promise of America is a beacon of hope against this darkness.
Yet, America never was, and is still not, a utopia. Slavery, racism, sexism, and ethnic conflicts mar our history. We continue to struggle living up to the ideal of equality each and every day. We must be ever vigilant to make progress. The current attack on Asian Americans is reprehensible and a step backward in our drive to fulfill our commitment to equality. We need to do better. Asian Americans are not the enemy, it is a microscopic, virulent virus. We need to let go of our basest of instincts and unite together to survive - and thrive.
Hon. Michael Warren is an Oakland County Michigan Circuit Court Judge, former member of the State Board of Education, co-creator of Patriot Week (www.PatriotWeek.org), and author of America’s Survival Guide (www.AmericasSurvivalGuide.com)