UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — An open letter was signed by dozens of members and families of Upper Arlington’s Asian-American community, responding to Lt. Governor Jon Husted’s tweet where he referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan Virus.”
Husted tweeted this on Friday from his personal Twitter account:
The letter, obtained exclusively by NBC4, was signed by 69 members and families of Upper Arlington’s Asian community.
The authors of the letter say its intent is “not to inflame, but to open a dialogue that we hope can make Upper Arlington a better place for our families.” It extends an offer to partner with the Lt. Governor to share that message throughout the State of Ohio.
Signers of the letter say they are concerned about Asian-based racial targeting, pointing out a reported rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
The letter reads:
Dear Mr. Husted:
We, the undersigned, are writing to you today as parents of Asian children in Upper Arlington schools and members of Upper Arlington’s growing Asian and Asian American community. We are reaching out to you regarding your recent tweets concerning the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the use of the invective “Wuhan Virus.”
While much has been reported on the stunning increase in violence towards Asians and Asian Americans nationally in the last year, we wish to highlight concerns that exist directly within our own community of Upper Arlington, specifically targeted towards children. Our children have been targeted for bullying and abuse in the district well before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that abuse has increased significantly in the last 14 months and has reached levels that have brought news media attention to our doorsteps.
Our children are the classmates, friends, and neighbors of your children.
Lt. Governor Husted, your choice of words has only raised the anxiety and fear that Asians and Asian Americans in Upper Arlington are currently experiencing. We want to believe that you did not have as your goal to make your neighbors feel even more frightened and even more vulnerable. So, we are sharing our fear with you. Many of us fear the verbal abuse that our children and family members experience will soon escalate to physical violence against them, and we are incapable of protecting them from this. As Lt. Governor, you are uniquely positioned to represent and protect the interests and safety of all Ohioans. As a resident of Upper Arlington, and our Lt. Governor, you are uniquely situated and have the power to take action to protect the families of our community. To protect all of our families.
We respectfully extend the invitation to meet personally to discuss the issues of violence and hatred towards Ohio’s Asian and Asian American citizens. Our purpose is not to inflame, but to open a dialogue that we hope can make Upper Arlington a better place for our families. Ultimately, we would welcome partnering with you to expand that message throughout the State of Ohio. We are all Ohioans and Buckeyes, and so much stronger together.
Tuesday, Husted defended the language used in the tweet in an interview with NBC4’s Adrienne Robbins.
“It had nothing to do with race, or ethnicity, or violence, or any other thing. It had to do with science, it had to do with the Chinese government, it had to do with a virus,” Husted said.
The lieutenant governor likened calling the coronavirus the “Wuhan Virus” with how we label variants by the region they come from.
“It had nothing to do with race or ethnicity and frankly, I’m a little angry at the people who tried to make it so because I believe that’s intentional, too,” Husted said.
The authors of the letter pointed out that in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified best practices for the naming of new human diseases, with the aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.
“This may seem like a trivial issue to some, but disease names really do matter to the people who are directly affected. We’ve seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities, create unjustified barriers to travel, commerce and trade, and trigger needless slaughtering of food animals. This can have serious consequences for peoples’ lives and livelihoods,” Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security noted.
Husted did say Tuesday there is no room for hate in Ohio.
“Let me just say as an elected leader of the state of Ohio, Asian Americans have been great contributors and sacrificed and made America a wonderful country,” he said.