I live in a small university town in Ohio. The students often use bedsheets to create signs and hang them on their porch. In late April, 2020, I was out running and on a busy street I saw a bedsheet sign that I read “Honk to stop the Chinese virus!” When I ran I thought I read Honk to Stop the Coronavirus but I realized it didn’t say that. I ran back, stood on the sidewalk in front of their house and reread the sign. It did say the Chinese virus. I told the university students that their sign was very offensive and racist. They told me that I had it all wrong that they were protesting the Chinese government. I told them that their sign was targeting a particular group of people and it was hurtful and wrong. The students just laughed at me (50 year old white woman) and said it was the Chinese virus.
I was frustrated but said my piece and continued on my run. I want people to know that words have power and can either be used to hurt others or foster good will within a community. Instead of being united during this challenging time these students chose to believe and repeat a racist attitude.