Asian American groups criticize MN GOP chair's defense of 'China virus' rhetoric

The group says the language is "deeply harmful" to Asian American communities in Minnesota.

The Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) in Minnesota says it is "appalled" that Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan has failed to denounce President Donald Trump's use of "China Virus," "Wuhan Virus" or "Kung Flu" to describe COVID-19. 

According to KARE 11, Carnahan spoke with reporters on Aug. 25 and when she was asked about the president's use of the terms, she said: 

"Our Caucus does not find any of the statements by the president to be offensive. When the president refers to the coronavirus as the China virus, he is simply talking about the country it originated in and a lot of other viruses in the past have been labeled as such. So I think that people are completely misconstruing his words and it has absolutely nothing to do with racism. It's more about origination."

CAAL responded to the chairwoman's comments in a statement that was co-signed by 18 groups on Aug. 31, saying "As organizations that represent many different Asian American communities in Minnesota, we are appalled at the chairwoman’s endorsement of this language and disappointed that she does not find the statements to be offensive.

"This type of language used by the president of the United States and the Chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota is deeply harmful to Asian American communities in Minnesota and furthers divisiveness when we should be working together to end this pandemic," the statement said.

CAAL went on to say that there has been an increase in anti-Asian racism across the U.S. and in Minnesota. In one incident in March, the partner of Vanishia Yang returned to their home in Woodbury and found an offensive note taped to their front door.

"We're watching you [expletive] [racist epithet] take the Chinese virus back to China," it says. "We don't want you hear [sic] infecting us with your diseases. – Your friendly neighborhood."

An increase in anti-Asian racism, including anti-Asian rhetoric and attacks, as well as xenophobia has been on the rise worldwide since the outbreak of the pandemic, Human Rights Watch reported in May. Meanwhile, Pew Research reported July 1 that about 31% of Asian adults say they've been subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the start of the pandemic. 

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"The labels 'China Virus,' 'Wuhan Virus,' or 'Kung Flu' exacerbate this racism and invite the general public to blame anyone who is perceived to be Chinese for causing this pandemic," CAAL said. "The continued broadcasting of these terms through the megaphone of the president and the MN GOP chairwoman furthers the harm towards Asian American communities in Minnesota. This must stop immediately."

CAAL says there have been "failures at all levels of government to address the needs of our communities," adding that instead of "excusing language and shifting blame onto everyday Asian Americans ... the chairwoman should be working with her party to understand the harm that has directly impacted Asian Americans."

The group calls on Carnahan, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a Minnesota family as a child, "to not make excuses for racism" and to denounce Trump's comments, clearly say Chinese and Asian communities aren't to blame for the pandemic and "get to work to help solve this crisis."

BMTN has reached out to the MN GOP for comment. 

CAAL's vision is to envision a state where everyone, regardless of background, are "actively engaged in shaping solutions, and can achieve prosperity." The groups that co-signed CAAL's statement on Carnahan include: Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP), Asian Media Access, Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Twin Cities Chapter, Hmong 18 Council of Minnesota and SEWA-AIFW.

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