By Peter Galuszka
“The Chinese Virus?” “Kung Flu?” Wuflu?”
These are some pejorative and racist names being bandied about for what is technically known as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. The disease associated with the virus is COVID-19.
These distinctions are part of a column written by the Virginia Asian Advisory Board in today’s Virginia Mercury. They write: “In an already anti-immigrant environment, Asians, particularly Chinese, are reportedly facing increasing acts of racism.”
They report that businesses with Asian-sounding names are being shunned, Uber and Lyft drivers are not giving rides of people based on their names and the social media is filled with stories critical of Asians, which is nuts because Asia is even more diverse than Europe.
Donald Trump, our Incompetent in Chief, is leading the charge for demeaning Asians by insisting on calling the virus the “Chinese Flu.”
During the 2016 campaign, he constantly put down Mexicans and other Latinos. That summer I was taken aback when I was at my neighborhood swimming pool. A group of what looked like eighth-grade boys was splashing around shouting “Mexico sucks!” I stopped them and asked them why they were saying that. They said, “That’s what Donald Trump says.”
Prince William County Corey Stewart has made a political career by dumping on immigrants. He claimed to be “Trump before he was Trump.”
A prominent contributor at Bacon’s Rebellion (you know who you are) has called COVID-19, the “Wuflu,” which, of course is a smart ass way of noting that the virus allegedly started in the Chinese city of Wuhan. This same individual drew statewide criticism a few years back when he ran a picture of a space alien dressed up like Pancho Via with a sombrero and glittery suit. He is holding two tacos and says “I come in peace.” The tome discussed the immigrant “problem.”
That upset me because one of my closest and oldest friends is a Mexican. She has a law degree and spent about three decades as a globe-trotting diplomat. By far, she is one of the smartest and most compassionate people I know.
Such rudeness hits me personally because of my last name – Galuszka. It comes from Poland or Ukraine. My grandparents on my Dad’s side were Austrian citizens of Polish descent. They spoke Polish and were very active in the Catholic Church.
Growing up, especially in secondary school, I was called a “Polak” a bit. Even when I worked at BusinessWeek, people assumed I came from a blue collar shot and brew town in the Great Lakes factory belt.
In fact, my grandfather had a college degree and spoke five languages. He was a local bank president and ran a food wholesale distributorship in Springfield, Mass. That had the Campbell’s Soup franchise for most of western New England. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the Polish nationalist who became prime minister in 1919, visited their home.
My grandfather and my grandmother had a girl who died and stillborn child. The survivors were an uncle who became a priest and another who became a doctor, as did my father.
One served as an Army doctor with Patton’s tank forces in Europe. My father served as a battalion surgeon for a Marine Corps amphibious tank unit that fought at Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. He stayed in the Navy and eventually headed the urology department at Bethesda Naval Hospital before retiring with the rank of captain.
I grew up on a Marine base, in Bethesda and then West Virginia and North Carolina. None of these places is some Bo-Hunk town out of the Deer Hunter (in which the marriage scene was filmed in a Russian neighborhood in Cleveland).
Years later, working as a journalist, I had to reach someone at a chemical plant in Louisiana. The telephone operator stumbled over my last name, completely mispronouncing it. The she said in her syrupy Southern accent: “Why don’t you CHANGE it?”
This is the kind of crap that B.R. commenters should avoid. I am sensitive to it, especially when Latinos are portrayed as having such vast cultural differences that they can never be true Americans. I got that implied line at a local Chesterfield paper I once wrote for. They portrayed Latinos as poor, dirty and living in trailer parks on Jeff Davis Highway. In fact, my next-door neighbor who maintains his property better than I do, has a PhD in psychology, works in mental health, and is from Colombia.
The only place where I have lived where my non-Anglo sounding last name was not a problem was in Moscow and, to a lesser extent, Chicago.There are currently no comments highlighted.