A judge at a court in Ohio has been told to apologise after they called coronavirus the “Chinavirus” three times. Judge John P. O’Donnell, who works at the Lake County Common Pleas Court used the term in a newsletter to the county bar and received backlash for its racist connotations.
Former President Donald Trump was highly criticised for his continued use of the term “China virus” to describe the ongoing and global coronavirus pandemic. Research has found the term has led to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States.
Shortly after circulation, O’Donnell’s column in the Lake Legal Views newsletter drew significant backlash, prompting The Asian American Bar Association of Ohio to speak up about the judge’s use of the term.
In a statement, they wrote: “The Asian American Bar Association of Ohio denounces Judge O’Donnell’s adoption of the term “China Virus” and the discriminatory and xenophobic connotations associated with it.”
Later in the statement, they explained their reasoning further, writing:
“Using the term “China Virus” to describe the coronavirus and COVID-19 is inaccurate and unacceptable. Our organization, and community-at-large, is deeply troubled by the use of such discriminatory and racially-charged language by a member of the judiciary, particularly at a time when stereotypes associated with this language have led to a documented surge in anti-Asian bias and racist attacks related to the coronavirus”
Several organisations in the area have called on O’Donnel to apologise for his inappropriate language. The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also commented on the issue and highlighted how it may affect people’s views on fair treatment. One part of the statement read:
"Considering Judge O’Donnell’s clear and public feelings, it is next to impossible to think that an Asian American, any person of colour, or other minority could walk in his courtroom believing she or he would be afforded such fair treatment."
It’s high time the anti-Asian rhetoric ended and that starts with those in the highest positions setting a better example than this.