Words matter

People often say, “I don’t care what Trump says; I support his corporate tax cuts and Supreme Court nominees”. But is it true that words don’t matter?

Iris Li, an undergraduate student at Emory University, went back to China at the beginning of the pandemic. She has decided to stay there for the semester. Li said she was “incredibly scared” when she heard Trump started calling the coronavirus the “China virus,” and lived in “constant fear” that she would not be able to finish her study on site, since the pandemic is still rampant in the U.S. But she held a glimmer of hope that her humanities major would make her less of a target by the U.S. government.

Li’s friend, who studies computer science, was not so lucky. On September 9, Li received a photo of her friend’s defaced apartment door at Rice University, with the word “spy” written on it. “I don’t think her neighbors knew she studied computer science,” Li said. . . .

President Trump had reportedly claimed at a dinner party in 2018 that “almost every student that comes over” to the U.S. from China “is a spy.” . . .

Having spent two years in Colorado Springs, the playground for pro-Trump evangelical Christians, Angelina Chen is no stranger to hearing outbursts of “Go back to your country” directed at her and her Asian-looking friends from passing cars. But the undergraduate at Colorado College still sensed something different brewing in the air since the pandemic started. She felt the glares of more people and heard more murmurs upon entering non-Asian grocery stores. Going downtown for her internship was cause for fear that she would be targeted. She also suspected that people treated her differently once they realized she was from China.

Interesting to see evangelical Christians and “Go back to your country” in the same sentence. I recall back in 2001 when President Bush went out of his way to encourage people not to be prejudiced against Muslims. And that was right after 9/11! China did not bomb the US.

Meanwhile, here’s a report from America’s nicest state:

A door-to-door COVID-19 testing survey has been halted due to multiple incidents in greater Minnesota of residents intimidating and shouting racial and ethnic slurs at state and federal public health survey teams. . . .

Insults came at doorways, from angry people approaching the surveyors or just people walking their dogs on the other sides of the streets, said Stephanie Yendell, a state senior epidemiology supervisor. . . .

The frequency of problems became clear last weekend when surveyors discussed their experiences, Yendell said. A Hispanic surveyor was called one slur “more in the last week than in her entire life,” she said.

Most people were polite in all areas of the state, but there were “several” incidents and “a pattern emerged,” said Dan Huff, assistant state health commissioner. The state ended the survey rather than continuing without the CDC workers, or sending only white surveyors in largely white rural communities.

“We found that our white teams had a very different experience, a much more positive experience, but I think from our perspective it’s ridiculous for us to contemplate that,” he said. “We choose who is doing this survey on their professional qualifications.”

Minnesota was the only state to vote Democratic in 1984, and one of only 2 midwestern states to do so in 2016.

America’s always had a fair number of racists, but Trump’s really made these people comfortable in expressing their actual beliefs about East Asians.

PS. I never knew my wife was a spy!



8 Responses to “Words matter”

  1. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    26. September 2020 at 17:11

    One of Trump’s really underrated legacies will be that he made conservatism a lot more mean-spirited than it was before. Ten years ago, I’d say the average American conservative was nicer than the average American liberal, but now the reverse is true. Things like Minnesota nice have now been relegated to the liberal upper-middle class parts of Minnesota. There’s really no room any more for “nice guys” in the GOP (like John Kasich or Jeb Bush for example), and that’s going to mean there will increasingly be no room for “nice guys” in the large chunk of America where the dominant culture is the GOP.

  2. Gravatar of JC1 JC1
    26. September 2020 at 19:10


    Your wife certainly isn’t a spy, but to use that example as a sarcastic flap against what’s going on is blind ignorance. The current Chinese regime are our enemies. Xi is a sack of shit.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. September 2020 at 21:49

    Mark, It will be interesting to see what happens after Trump is no longer on the scene.

    JC1, Yes, Xi is bad, as is his regime, but we should be welcoming Chinese immigrants to America. It’s makes us stronger and makes China weaker. Chinese spying is the least of our problems—we need to look in the mirror.

    Also, keep in mind that Russia is a much bigger threat than China, but our current President is basically a Russian agent–carrying water for Putin.

    It would also be nice to have a president who didn’t actively encourage Xi to put Muslims into concentration camps. But given that America is now a banana republic, perhaps that’s too much to ask.

  4. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. September 2020 at 05:17

    I continue to realize just how important fundamentalist Christianity is in this fascism. It’s easy for an atheist to underestimate the role of religion in politics.

    I want to point out that I’m referring to some fundamentalists, not most Christians.

  5. Gravatar of Kevin A Kevin A
    27. September 2020 at 09:50

    The people saying “go back to your country” were probably the same whities that beat up justin smollett.

    Also I saw a unicorn today. You know my ancedote is true because I saw it wearing a maga hat

  6. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. September 2020 at 13:44

    Having spent two years in Colorado Springs, the playground for pro-Trump evangelical Christians, Angelina Chen is no stranger to hearing outbursts of “Go back to your country” directed at her and her Asian-looking friends from passing cars.


    this is such an idiotic sentence and you could even know it. It’s similar to the statements about Pompeo from a few posts earlier, only even worse.

    I continue to realize just how important fundamentalist Christianity is in this fascism.


    This may or may not be true, only the articles Scott quoted do not give any significant information about this.

    “Evangelical Christians” seems to be a politically correct buzzword these days, where the brain of all the “super-decent” people stops working and where one can easily turn to prejudice and politically correct hatred.

  7. Gravatar of steven j cook steven j cook
    28. September 2020 at 10:00

    focussing only on trump comments and ignoring equally inflammatory remarks from pelosi, schumer, aoc, and the words on the walls in portland, seattle, kenosha is a bit one sided don’t you think?

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    28. September 2020 at 13:35

    Steven, What “equally inflammatory remarks”?

    And I have plenty of posts criticizing the left.

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