A new study has found that the sharp rise in online hate and racist attacks against Asian Americans is closely linked to former President Donald Trump’s used of the phrase “Chinese virus” to describe Covid-19 in March last year. But Trump has defended the use of the term, saying it’s “not racist at all” and that he “just wants to be accurate.”
The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that days after the former president tweeted the racist rhetoric on 16 March 2020, the number of coronavirus-related tweets with anti-Asian hashtags rose precipitously.
The study examined nearly 700,000 tweets containing nearly 1.3 million hashtags, the week before and after Trump’s tweet. It found that the number of daily users who used #covid19 rose by 379 percent while those using #chinesevirus to describe the pandemic increased by a staggering 8,351 percent.
The results come in the wake of the shooting rampage in Atlanta that killed six women of Asian origin.
“These results may be a proxy of growth in anti-Asian sentiment that was not as prevalent as before,” said Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UC, San Francisco and the study’s lead author.
“Using racial terms associated with a disease can result in the perpetuation of further stigmatization of racial groups.”
The researchers further found that 50 percent of users who adopted the hashtag #chinesevirus paired it with overtly racist hashtags as compared to 20 percent of those who adopted #covid19 to refer to the disease.
Recently, the White House also slammed Trump, saying that there is “no question” that racist rhetoric used by him and his allies has led to a spike in discrimination against Asian Americans.
“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration – calling Covid the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things – led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair… has elevated threats against Asian Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.
Trump defended the use of the incendiary term, saying the phrase is “not racist at all.”
“It comes from China. That’s why,” he said, as he tried to explain why he continues to use the term. “I want to be accurate.”