First: I know I’ve been a pretty useless poster for the last long while. I won’t make promises, but I have some reason to hope I’ll be a bit more present going forward.
You have been warned.
Second: this is a pretty weak way to reenter the posting world, but I think/hope some of you might be interested in a short essay I wrote for The Atlantic that went up yesterday.
Basically when I heard that GOP assholes were, in a seemingly/likely coordinated way trying to rebrand COVID-19 as “the Wuhan virus” or “the Chinese virus,” I lost my shit. Not just because of the transparent attempt to evade responsibility for the colossal GOP fuck-up that will/has already cost lives, but because of the deep and long history of the use of disease as a racist and anti-immigrant trope, being repurposed to do yet more harm.
Here’s a taste:
Its [the plague’s] journey didn’t take long. The first documented victim, a Chinese laborer named Wong Chut King, died in San Francisco’s Chinatown on March 6, 1900. The outbreak that followed lasted until 1904, killing more than one hundred people, most of them Chinese. The established racial mythology of the day—that the Chinese were alien threats, vectors of social contagion—molded the city’s response. On March 7, the day after Wong died, a rope barrier appeared around Chinatown, and police forced every ethnic Chinese person to remain confined in the area—while allowing white people to leave. (For my account of these events I’ve relied on Gunther Risse’s Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Francisco’s Chinatown; Nayan Shah’s Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown; and David K. Randall’s Black Death at the Golden Gate.
The quarantine didn’t hold—but in its place came proposals for a much more radical solution. If the packed and impenetrable Chinese neighborhood was the source of a dread disease, why not simply eradicate it, to achieve by design what Honolulu’s firebrands had accomplished by accident? As the historian Gunther Risse reports, a newspaper said the quiet part out loud: Chinatown was a “foul spot” and “the only way to get rid of that menace is to eradicate Chinatown from the city … and give the debris to the flames.” Burn it down, start again (not coincidentally, on a patch of prime real estate), and as for those who lived there? A member of the San Francisco Board of Health knew what to do: “Every Chinese in Chinatown ought to be removed to a detention camp somewhere in the hills.”
There’s the whole megillah at the link. It’s an ugly story–and a more intricate one than I had space to develop. I wrote it on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning–as in before the Shitgibbon vomited his “alien plague” monstrousness. But it came as no surprise, not after the chorus of GOP voices spreading the old and murderous lie.
We should learn. We don’t. Or rather, there is no end to the willingness of morally bankrupt humans–the Republican Party, all of it, in its modern form–to weaponize hate. And the joke (hah!) is that when they do so, more people die.
With that: have a great evening. Talk about this, or, perhaps better, anything else, something that reminds us that this community, like so many others, doesn’t do or countenance the crap some around us fling.
Image: E.M. Ward, A woman seated on the ground, torchbearer to left, below heads of plague victims, 1848.