On a recent news story, I heard that 40% of Americans believe the coronavirus was manufactured in a Chinese laboratory. That’s a sizable part of our population, and that’s a belief that has impact and real consequences, even if there’s no evidence that it’s true. And it’s important to say this: There’s no evidence that it’s true.
Earlier this week, I overheard the tail end of a conversation where someone was asserting this. Because I arrived at the end, and a virtual event was just about to begin, I didn’t say anything. But I found myself thinking about it afterward. I won’t presume to know why this was said in this particular instance, because I wasn’t there for the full conversation.
But I’m curious why people believe this… why 40% of Americans believe this…
When a threat is real but invisible, perhaps people want to give it a story and an ‘enemy.’ When people are angry, hurt, and afraid, some want to find a scapegoat to blame. Rather than pointing at the inadequate responses of an administration, or especially, pointing to ourselves collectively for our failure to take precautions, some shift the blame to a hypothetical Chinese laboratory. But there’s no evidence for this, and feelings are not facts.
And feelings-not-facts theories easily tap into racism. This non-factual belief stirs up real, anti-Chinese sentiment, which impacts the experiences of Asians and Asian-Americans.
Feelings are not facts. But sometimes, they stir up real harm.