Washington DC —The Presidents of the National Asian Pacific Islander Caucus of State Legislators (NAPICSL), the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) and the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASL) sent the following open letter to President Donald Trump today regarding the language used to refer to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
A PDF version with the enclosure follows.
March 17, 2020
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
As presidents of the four bipartisan national caucuses of state legislators of color, we come together to beseech you heed the advice of CDC Director Robert Redfield and stop using geographic or ethnic terms when designating or referring to COVID-19.
We do so on behalf of our members, our constituents and the more than 125 million people of Asian American, Pacific Islander American, African American, Hispanic American and Native American heritage residing in the United States who are as impacted as everyone by this pandemic. We also urge you to heed the words of our colleagues, the chairs of the four Congressional caucuses of color, in their joint statement issued concurrently and enclosed.
Using Asia-related or Asian ethnic terms when referencing COVID-19 feeds the mistaken belief that Asian Americans are more likely to be carriers of this disease. Perpetuating this belief could make the spread of the COVID-19 virus much worse in the United States. Specifically, tweets referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” help to spread xenophobia against Asian Americans.
A virus has no race, no ethnicity, no cultural heritage. Anyone may be a carrier. And yet, since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the United States, a surge of discriminatory rhetoric and violent attacks against Asian Americans across the country has been reported. They do not deserve this, and encouraging the beliefs that drive it, even indirectly, is contrary to good public health policy.
Your primary job in this moment of worldwide concern is to unite, guide and calm the country, not to sow division or engage in deflection of responsibility and finger pointing. Americans are seeking health information, science-based guidance and trustworthy leadership from all of us as government officials. Sharing inaccurate information laced with invective only aggravates the crisis by increasing fear and inciting violence.
We reaffirm our commitment to working with your administration to minimize the impact of this crisis and express our most sincere hope that you are successful in guiding America through this dark time. In that spirit, on behalf of our Asian American brethren, we ask that you follow the advice of the health policy professionals in this regard so that we can come together as Americans.
Rep. Kyle Yamashita
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter
Sen. Daniel A. Ivey-Soto
Sen. Benny Shendo
# # #