COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A complaint on Wednesday was filed against a Missouri lawmaker for describing COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.”
Kansas City Democratic Rep. Emily Weber said in a statement said she filed a complaint with House human resources against Rep. Brian Seitz, a Branson Republican.
Seitz used the phrase during a House floor discussion Tuesday over state revenues and a bill that would allow the state to collect sales taxes from online retailers that don’t have a physical presence in the state.
“While the zombie apocalypse has seen a shortage of revenue for the state, I remind the body that the Chinese virus has not shut down one business,” Seitz said. “Government has shut down businesses and created this shortfall.”
Seitz did not immediately return an Associated Press request for comment Wednesday.
Weber said the term “denigrates, stigmatizes and dehumanizes people who look like me.”
Weber was born in South Korea and adopted and raised in Kansas. She moved to Kansas City after college.
“Representative Seitz’ repeated use of the phrase ‘China virus’ in House proceedings perpetuates a singularly harmful new racial stereotype specifically designed to point blame for this crisis at a particular nation and community,” Weber said.
She said she hopes the chamber’s human resources department takes action against Seitz for using a phrase that “puts the lives and well-being of Missourians of Asian descent at risk.”
Seitz is not the first Missouri lawmaker to describe the virus as Chinese, and the term is also often used by Republicans in Congress.
Bigotry toward Asian Americans spiked as cases of the coronavirus spread in the U.S., fueled by the news that COVID-19 first appeared in China and former President Donald Trump’s use of the term “China virus.”
Some initial evidence suggested the virus began in bats, which infected another animal that may have spread it to people at one of Wuhan, China’s “wet markets.” Such markets sell fresh meat, fish and vegetables, and some also sell live animals, such as chickens, that are butchered on site to ensure freshness for consumers.
The information quickly got distorted in the U.S., spurring racist memes on social media that portrayed Chinese people as bat eaters responsible for spreading the virus, and reviving century-old tropes about Asian food being dirty.
Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups, issued a report in August stating that it had received more than 2,500 reports of hate and discrimination across the country since the group was founded in March, around the time the outbreak began to seriously worsen in the U.S. The group said it received data from 47 states, with 46% of the incidents taking place in California, followed by 14% in New York.