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home : archive : archive October 21, 2020

10/1/2020 4:34:00 PM
Choose words carefully
Patti Stokes, publisher/editor
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Patti Stokes, publisher/editor

In our Sept. 17-30 issue, a reader submitted a Grin for two local breweries which have gone down during the pandemic and placed the responsibility on the "Chinese disease" instead of referring to the affliction as COVID-19, or the coronavirus. Did I pause at that term? Yes. And after some thought, I chose to let it go by.

However, had I realized the term "Chinese disease" or "Chinese virus" would be so derogatory to anyone of Chinese - or further, of Asian - descent, I would have deleted it, as it served only to detract from a shout-out to businesses which had crumbled due to the long-term effects of the pandemic.

Since the Grin was published, multiple adjectives have been bestowed on me, not the least of which include "insensitive" and "racist."

In my opinion (and perhaps, my ignorance), the reader's term was intended to be a side slap to China's government for its initial handling of the coronavirus when first detected in Wuhan.

China is a one-party, socialist republic, and its citizens have very little influence over their government's actions. Why, then, should the initial handling of the virus outbreak in Wuhan, China, reflect poorly on anyone of Chinese descent - or, as one reader wrote to me, on "Asians" in general (which unless specified includes those from India, Japan, Korea and many other countries in Asia)? It seems ludicrous to me, but I'm told it has happened.

Although this paper is in my care, I have always maintained it belongs to the communities it serves and should reflect the diverse personalities and opinions of the many thousands of people who live within them. With that said, I'll continue to seek accuracy, fairness and wisdom when carefully considering how to strike a balance between allowing readers the opportunity to speak freely versus sheltering others from the opinions they wish to express and the words they choose to express them.

In turn, I remind readers that whether their words are submitted anonymously (i.e., in a Grin or Gripe) or openly with their name disclosed (i.e., in an editorial), they will be heard loudly and have the potential to bring far-reaching and sometimes unintended consequences.

In closing, thanks to those who reached out to me directly and invited productive dialogue over the past two weeks - and for confirming that print is indeed not dead ...

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