I lived in China for about 4.5 years, and when I turned 45 there I realized that one in every ten days of my life I’d awoken in China. I lived in small cities by Chinese standards, and there were so few other Westerners in those cities that I knew them all, and could count them on my fingers. I had to speak Chinese because the locals didn’t speak English, and the only Western restaurant was KFC.
This kind of heavy immersion had the curious effect that, while I could easily identify all my students by name, I started to have difficulty telling white people apart when I watched a movie. This was because I saw so few white faces over the years that my capacity to differentiate them atrophied, and I also struggled to follow the fast-paced dialogue in the same movies. I became angry that people slurred their English so much., when in reality I’d just become unaccustomed to hearing rapid-fire English.
Chinese people, in China, became completely normal to me, and I’d sometimes be oblivious to how much I stood out. The biggest problem was always the language barrier, and my Mandarin Chinese never rose that much above practical usage. But when I interacted with the Chinese English teachers, who were fluent, I found them so intelligent and understanding that our commonalities vastly outstripped our differences, to the point where they hardly signified, and were all cultural rather than racial. Most Chinese people, and especially my students, were good, decent, average people, just like at home. It was the leaders, and the people in power, that one had to look out for (and anyone behind a wheel).
I really shouldn’t need to point this out, but just a reminder to perhaps help some of us to keep our heads screwed on straight, the Chinese Communist Party is not the same thing as Chinese people. I’ve been on the other end of the stick. I traveled in Myanmar during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which I had protested in the streets 4 times before the invasion even started. A lot of locals were strongly opposed to the war, I got dirty looks, and some individuals let me know how they felt about Americans. Fortunately, they were smart enough that when I explained that I didn’t support the war, hadn’t voted for George W. Bush, and had tried to stop it in my small way, they lost their grip on making me the enemy.
The reason the coronavirus has spread globally is due to the corruption and incompetence of powerful individuals in charge, both inside and outside of China. Your average citizen of China has nothing to do with it, and is a victim of it. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are also Chinese countries, and neither their citizens nor their governments can be blamed for the spreading of the virus. Further, within China, individual Chinese citizens have made brave efforts to combat the virus, and to get the truth out.
I get annoyed with all the social justice talk about how calling the virus “Wuhan virus” is racist or xenophobic, because that’s just getting our priorities all wrong. Apocryphal racism, and hammering home the far left narrative and agenda, is not a priority as compared to people dying and economies being devastated. On the other hand, as annoying as identity politics is when it invents racism out of thin air and projects it onto innocent people, actual racism is even worse. There’s being intellectually dishonest to the point of stupidity, and then there’s being an outright aggressive moron.
When one of the local men in Myanmar was really getting on my case for being an American, I finally managed to turn him around when I explained that it was better for him if Americans like me opposed the government’s actions and openly spoke up about it, in America. Well, you definitely have the same thing in China. Tens of millions of Chinese people are fed up with their oppressive government, and are themselves the worst hit by their government’s self-serving, mishandling of the epidemic. Chinese doctors and scientists, in and outside of China, are doing their best to combat the virus, come up with improved treatments, and find a vaccine.
The real villain is corruption, and there’s a kernel of it in each of us. Those of us who would malign, harass, or harbor hatred towards Chinese or Asian people are themselves corrupt, imbecilic, and thus infinitely more identical to the underlying cause of the pandemic than are people who merely have a certain appearance.
Blaming the CCP, calling the virus “Wuhan flu”, or even calling some local customs into question, is not racist. Blaming people because of their bodies is, and imbecilic.
Hopefully, that was just preaching to the choir. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.