Re “Coronavirus in N.Y.: Manhattan Woman Is First Confirmed Case in State”

By BOCHU DING

COURTESY PHOTO/THE NEW YORK TIMES

The following was submitted to the NYT as a Letter to the Editor. 

To the Editor:

Words cannot express the disappointment I felt when I saw that The Times chose to feature an image of Chinatown in Flushing, New York alongside its breaking story about a Manhattan woman who contracted the coronavirus after returning from Iran. There is no connection between Chinatown and Manhattan — nor Iran — except for the fact that the first case of the coronavirus appeared in China and the emergence of an accepted narrative that the carriers of the virus are Asians.

For many Asians and Asian-Americans such as myself, The Times represented a platform that told our story — one that is nuanced, complex and above all, human. We had confidence in The Times that it would do its due diligence to look beyond the black and white to find the gray, to tell our story accurately, and to do so without bias. That trust has been violated. 

The Times commands the attention of hundreds and thousands of eyes, wielding a powerful force — one that can be used to dispel racist and xenophobic agendas or permit, enable, and endorse them.  Whether intentionally or not, the Times has dehumanized a community in its weakest moments, feeding into toxic, misleading, and fantastically inaccurate narratives that enable and justify racism and xenophobia.

If The Times is true to its mission to “seek the truth and help people understand the world,” then it must seek truth by looking behind the curtain of its own biases and evaluate whose world it is helping whom understand.

Bochu Ding ’21 is a Managing Editor for The Campus.