Several weeks ago, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, was accused of racism for writing a post which she tweeted on her congressional campaign website. She called for the United States to stop relying on China for essential goods and stated that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic came about because of the Chinese Communist Party.
I am Asian-American and a friend of Coleman, and it is important to look at the facts about how the COVID-19 pandemic started and that it is not racist for people such as Coleman for to state the facts.
First of all, I do not condone the acts of harassment and assault towards the Asian-American community. Nobody should experience these acts of racism. However, that does not mean that Coleman’s statements were racist.
She stated, "Let’s be clear: the coronavirus plague facing us comes exclusively as a courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). No Communist China, no crisis.”
Since when is attacking a “Communist Party” racist? Coleman is clearly not attacking the Chinese people in her statements; she is attacking the CCP.
The main purpose of Coleman’s post was to explain our nation’s dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals and how China controls the world’s medical drug supply. She continued to explain that the CCP lied and “dissembled the reality of this often-deadly virus,” and that it cost the rest of the world many weeks of preparation, which would eventually cost many lives and trillions of dollars.
Next, it is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 started in China, and it is OK to call it the “Chinese virus.” Why have we not been concerned when we call the Mad Cow Disease the “British disease”, the 1918 flu pandemic the “Spanish flu,” or the viral respiratory illness the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even mentions the latter as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. It should not be deemed as racist to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”
Even a CNN headline said, “The coronavirus pandemic began in China...”.
Again, I am against the racist attacks, and we need to do better. At this time, we need to call out the CCP and their fault in the start of COVID-19 as Coleman did.
Besides just being Asian-American, I am also a personal friend of Coleman. I have seen her befriend people of all races, religions and political parties. She just gets along with people, and she fights for everyone’s rights.
I also know that Coleman is against harassment and assault, but she also stands in favor of free speech. In the Utah Legislature, I have been able to help her with a campus free speech bill that defined the line between harassment and free speech based on the Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education Supreme Court case. Coleman is clearly not wanting to harm anyone no matter who they are.
Even during a parade last year, I even saw Coleman talk to and hug people from many different backgrounds. She is a respected leader in the community, and she truly listens to those around her.
As someone who is Asian-American and a friend of Rep. Coleman, I do not condone the attacks that she is perpetuating racism. It is hypocritical that she is being called out for harassment when the same people are also harassing her. While we should fight against harassment and assault on the Asian-American people and everyone else, it is more important to focus on ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frances Floresca is a recent graduate from the University of Utah. She currently resides and works in Arlington, Va.