There have been times in history when xenophobia has been used as a scapegoat in times of trouble. Right now, we’re seeing that President Trump is deflecting blame for the spread of COVID-19 to China. Amid the fear and unrest of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important we not allow blame to become the peace our wandering minds are looking for.
The ideology that blames foreign countries and entities for issues within a country lends itself to egocentrism, blinding itself from its own issues. It also leads to a culture of xenophobia.
The policy changes during the Trump administration reflect this very thing. The new 60-day moratorium on immigration is not the first time Trump has attempted to dismantle immigration into the U.S. Over the course of his term, he ordered a travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries, pushed relentlessly for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and restricting admission to asylum seekers and refugees. Trump cut the American refugee program from 30,000 to a limit of 18,000.
While limiting immigration can serve multiple purposes, there is an undeniable underlying xenophobic sentiment in disallowing newcomers into the country that needs to be acknowledged.
In his presidential announcement speech in 2015, Trump described Mexicans in the following manner: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
In January 2018, arguing against reinstating protections for African and Haitian immigrants, Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here? We should have more people from places like Norway.”
His explicit language shows a personal disposition to believe that individuals from these countries do not hold value or potential. These offensive generalizations can not be interpreted as anything other than blatant racism.
The immigration ban enacted on April 21 targets those seeking green cards with an objective to save jobs for Americans who were laid off during the pandemic. Yet, Trump made an exception for guest worker programs under business pressures, leaving one to question his motives for the moratorium.
Looking to the most recent news, Trump has blamed Beijing for the global pandemic. While the first reported cases were in fact in Wuhan, each country has had varying responses that have impacted the spread. Nonetheless, Trump has insisted on calling the coronavirus “the China virus.”
While it is tempting to place blame on China, the U.S. must also recognize its own responsibility in how the virus has spread. The Trump administration was notified about the outbreak on January 3, yet Trump continued to dismiss the severity of the situation for months. On March 24, Trump was still downplaying the virus, comparing it to the flu. By delaying action and undermining the danger to the American conscience, the U.S. administration can be found at fault as well.
Fear of our uncertain circumstances can easily evolve into fear of our foreign neighbors. Don’t let your own perceptions of other cultures and countries be influenced by the rhetoric and targeted legislation made by the administration. Read international news and get both sides of the story. Be humbled in your own country’s faults and weaknesses. It is not un-American to love and understand your neighbor.