The New York Times recently published a list of ‘true leaders’ in the fight against COVID-19. They spend exactly one sentence on Asia and the rest on white leaders that mostly did worse than Iran. The structural racism is mind-boggling, and it’s getting people killed.
According to the NYTimes, Iran completely and utterly botched its response to the Coronavirus, but countries with higher mortality rates like Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Denmark are listed as true leaders. It makes no sense. It’s just racism, so structural that the Editorial Board can’t even see it. It’s built into the edifice of the paper itself.
By any objective measure, the true leaders are all not in the west, with asterisks for Iceland and Greece. Basically everywhere else is doing markedly better — Asia, Australasia, Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. Every major western leader has failed and this list is actively making people stupider.
In an age of pandemic, this blithe ignorance doesn’t just mean random brown weddings are getting drone struck. The ignorance of the New York Times is now getting its own readers killed.
Truly true leaders
Let me tell you what true leadership is. Zero. Zero people need to die from coronavirus. Every death is a failure of leadership. Vietnam has zero deaths. Taiwan has six. Korea has 250, which they mourn. These are true leaders, and we should praise and learn from them.
In its editorial on leadership, the New York Times devotes exactly one sentence to Asia. Here it is, in its entirety.
President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan likewise responded at the first sign of the new danger, keeping the virus under control and enabling her to send millions of face masks to the United States and Europe.
That’s it. The Times only discusses a non-white country once, and even that is in relation to white people.
Where is Asia?
To be completely honest, it’s not clear that the Editorial Board even knows where Asia is.
South Asian countries have the added advantage of recent experience tangling with an epidemic.
I live in South Asia. The term has a meaning, we have SAARC for example, which ends in Bangladesh. This article only mentions Taiwan and South Korea, which are not in South Asia. These countries are in East Asia, which is a different place.
What did they miss? (Everything)
If the Editorial Board knew where East Asia was, they would know that it is next to China. By any measure, these countries should have been hammered, but they somehow fought the virus down. The entire region had fewer deaths in total than Europe has every day. To be clear, more people will die today in countries the Time praises than have died total in the countries they omit.
New York Times readers don’t even learn that countries like Vietnam or Thailand exist. There’s no discussion of South Korea, or the Indian state of Kerala — actual success stories where people didn’t die in droves and aren’t dying right now. There’s no talk of the institutions these people built, the diligent execution of test/trace/isolate regimes, how they took care of their people, and even avoided lockdowns.
There are also notable examples from Africa and the Caribbean. Countries with Ebola infrastructure reacted quickly, and even your average African nation has performed better than your average western one. In the Caribbean, many small nations like Trinidad and Tobago seem to have proactively protected themselves, and Cuba even sent doctors abroad, to assist Italy. None of this is covered either.
Instead, it’s just a bunch of empty words spouted by white people. That’s what leadership means to the NYTimes. White people merely rising above the level of Donald Trump. For example, they include Italy, until recently the greatest public health failure on planet Earth.
In Italy, the European country hardest hit by the pandemic, Giuseppe Conte, a law professor who was originally plucked from obscurity by a coalition of rowdy anti-establishment parties and subsequently emerged at the head of a more orthodox government, has won respect for ordering stern measures and pledging that the state will take care of people.
Why is Italy in this article at all? Italy has had 115X the death toll of South Korea, and hundreds of people are still dying every day. The Italian Prime Minister recognized that this was bad… after it happened. That’s not leadership, it’s just not being a sociopath.
And let’s talk about the great white hope, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A scientist, a woman, and a failure. By any objective, non-racist, standard, Germany has failed. Merkel presided over more deaths two days ago (287) than South Korea has had total. She has presided over a similar death toll to Iran, which is widely described as a basket case. And yet she is praised, because she’s so eloquent.
Like Ms. Ardern, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany acted early and calmly, warning Germans that many of them would fall prey to the novel coronavirus.
This is not leadership. Leadership is not calmly telling people that they’re going to die. Leadership is saving their lives.
People have done this. Many people have done this. Vietnam has a similar population to Germany, a fraction of the GDP, and a land border with China. They somehow prevented anyone from dying, but they are not mentioned in this article at all. Because racism. Because even the New York Times views Asia as hopelessly oriental and foreign and not just different human beings that could be learned from.
In fighting a pandemic, knowledge is power and racism has made the West stupid and weak.
Stupid is as stupid does
Western countries wasted valuable time computer modeling white people and debating various outcomes when the best practices were clear from the beginning. If they had just followed Asian leadership they could have saved themselves.
Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, and basically every country near China reacted in January. They didn’t wait for anyone to warn them and they’re not blaming people now. These nations had all been preparing and building pandemic institutions for decades. The playbook they followed is hundreds of years old (find/isolate/trace), the only major additions being PCR testing and PPE. Every country could have just looked over there and copied them. Many other countries, like mine, have.
The west, however, was blind, and they did get hammered, even with months more to prepare. The crazy thing is that they’re still blind, even when the results are so abundantly and tragically clear.
The fact that the New York Times can write an article in April 2020 with one sentence on Asia is insane. By that, I mean doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
The west got into this mess because they did not follow Asian leadership. The couldn’t even understand that non-white leadership was possible. They remain in this mess because they’re still too stubborn and racist to learn. Asian countries copied and learned tons of things from the west, which is why they’re more advanced today. There’s no shame in it, it’s called progress. The west is too proud to copy back, and their people are dying as a result.
This is very real. All of the white countries mentioned besides New Zealand and Australia are still burying people every day. Every day a loved one dies a horrible death — gasping, terrified, and alone — and each death was preventable. They are dying from COVID, but Asian countries have shown that COVID is preventable. They are really dying from western hubris, as published in the New York Times.
True leaders aren’t a bunch of white people dragging around their excuses. True leadership isn’t talking after the fact, or telling people that they’re going to die. True leadership is being organized, planning ahead, and following common-sense public health measures, and right now that leadership is coming from Asia. The New York Times needs to pull its head out of its structurally white ass and see.
Notes: people have commented with places I’ve missed. This wasn’t intended as a comprehensive list, but they’re right. Shout-outs to Trinidad & Tobago first of all because they’re the loudest, also Mongolia, almost every country in Africa, much of the Caribbean, most of Latin America besides Brazil, Papua New Guinea, etc. And also shout-out if you’re living in a country that has messed it up, or you’re stateless, or whatever. We’re not our governments, or lack thereof. It’s not your fault, I wish you health and the best of luck.
(This article was first published on indica.medium.com on May 4, 2020 and has been reproduced here.)
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