I am writing in response to a letter that appeared in the Missourian on Tuesday, Sept. 8, titled “President Trump is truthful in using “Chinese flu,” as it references the COVID-19 pandemic’s country of origin.”
The author writes “the flu of 100 years ago was called the Spanish flu. By tagging it as Spanish, was that a racial remark?’’ The implication implied by the title of the letter and the comments cited here is that Spain was the “pandemic’s country of origin.’’ That is categorically untrue. The Spanish flu was so named because Spain was neutral in World War I. It was among the few countries releasing information about the scourge that was affecting Europe and the United States by soldiers returning home from the war. Not unlike today, President Woodrow Wilson limited the American press in what was published as the pandemic began to spread. Because the Spanish press was not limited in their ability to disseminate information, the United States learned of the dire consequences of the flu. Thus, the country of origin was not Spain. Spain was the source of information in our country at the beginning of the disease. Consequently, implying using the terminologies “Chinese flu’’ and “Spanish flu’’ is a nonracist remark by linking the countries as the origins of these pandemics is unfounded. Historically using the term “Spanish flu’’ was to acknowledge the source of information that saved U.S. lives.
Linda J. Keown is a retired assistant professor of Spanish at MU.