On Tuesday, House Reps. Jim Banks and Seth Moulton introduced a new resolution that would condemn the Chinese government's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak as well as demand that the Chinese government take responsibility and "publicly state that there's no evidence that COVID-19 originated anywhere else but China." The resolution essentially seeks to place blame the severity of the pandemic on China, in the midst of a back-and-forth between the United States and China about who is responsible for the spread of the virus.
Other lawmakers have criticized the resolution with concerns about the effect this action might have on the Asian-American community, and they're right to do so. Donald Trump has already been criticized for referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus" due to fears that associating the virus with China and Chinese people will encourage racism and violence against Asian Americans. This new resolution is problematic for the same reasons. Rep. Judy Chu stated about the resolution, "During a pandemic like this, people are afraid and angry, and directing that anger towards China puts AAPIs at risk, as we have already seen with the insults and assaults against them." As Chu said, this pandemic is a delicate time. We've seen COVID-19 become an excuse for people to be openly racist towards Asian Americans, and we've also seen a wave of anti-Asian racism developing from a supposed abundance of caution. As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States and people are being ordered to stay at home and self-quarantine, having Congress blame China in this way only further associates this virus with China and Chinese people, especially when so many people can't separate the government from the people.
Both Reps. Banks and Moulton have stated that their intention is to make sure that China's government is held responsible and stressed that they do not support xenophobia or discrimination. Personally, I take issue with this response. No matter what they say, Banks and Moulton can't control what people think or what associations people will make. An official resolution blaming China for COVID-19 will inevitably lead to people also blaming Chinese people as well, and this constant placement of blame will negatively impact the Asian-American community. Asian Americans have historically been associated with the actions of Asian countries and governments overseas: let's not forget Japanese internment and the overall treatment of Asian Americans in response to Japan's actions during WWII, or the anti-Chinese and overall anti-Asian sentiments during the Red Scare.
The fact is that Asian Americans are still treated as "perpetual foreigners" and will still be associated with the actions of Asian countries despite living in the United States and being American. We haven't exactly reached a point where no one would associate Asian Americans with the Chinese government's actions (not to mention how Asian American history isn't exactly a commonly taught subject). In this end, how much does it matter if the House doesn't intend to encourage anti-Asian racism? When Asian Americans are harassed and assaulted because our own government is so focused on blaming China, saying that the resolution wasn't intended in this way or that the House wasn't seeking to exacerbate anti-Asian racism doesn't change anything. It doesn't make a difference for people who have already been victims of hate crimes. It's not the intention that matters in these cases, but the mere fact that people can and will interpret the resolution as targeting both China and its people. At such a sensitive time, this resolution will most likely make the situation worse for Asian Americans.
With the turmoil and uncertainty caused by COVID-19, focusing on blaming China will only worsen discrimination and racism against Asian Americans. This isn't the time to be playing blame games, although I do have to point out that both the United States and China are guilty of doing so. Passing an entire resolution to blame China for this ongoing pandemic will not benefit American people. This resolution has the potential to be extremely detrimental to the Asian-American community, regardless of the intention.