I live in California but my pre-Baby Boomer mother is still a Florida girl, ensconced in a nice house courtesy of my brother, with terrific neighbors who care a lot about her and kind people everywhere we go.

Our visits are primarily phone calls rather than plane trips and this week we were talking about the coronavirus and after an hour or so the talk came around to whether or not it was racist to call COVID-19 the Wuhan Flu. For reasons few can figure out other than that some people need to find things to worry about, there are two opposing camps; the microbiology side has long used the outbreak location or species as the name (e.g. Spanish Flu, Swine Flu, Legionnaire's Disease) but some journalists and social media warriors are now claiming even the term Wuhan Flu is inherently racist. 

My mother, an avowed Democrat with so many deep shades of red I'd accept arguments she is a closet communist, is no fan of President Trump but after spending the bulk of her life in the south, she has probably seen real racism. My mother is a natural storyteller, and without realizing she was doing it, she told me a great story about tolerance.


After World War II my mother's (first) stepfather(1) purchased a house with GI bill money.(2) It may be that many on their street had gotten houses the same way, there were a lot more veterans across social strata than we see now (I am the token veteran for most I know), and also on the street was an Asian family.

The 1940s Japanese had a tougher time in America than Germans did. It was shortly after delivering his Four Freedoms speech, promising "the right of the individual human being, without regard to his race, creed, or color" that President Franklin D. Roosevelt put 120,000 Japanese people into internment camps, where they would spend the rest of the war. But while the war was over the xenophobia was not. America was rebuilding both Germany and Japan, and most seemed to agree that was the right thing to do, yet it was not so pleasant for Asians at home.

This Asian family on her street, surname Pan, had kids but my mother was told no one was allowed to play with them. Sometimes my mother, age 6, would play with them through the glass windows of the door to obey the rule without violating it. And she talked to them from a distance when she was outside. Asians then and now often take American nicknames to make it easier on us, so the young boy was called Peter. The girl was Helen.

The door had window panes and in the course of social distance playing, banging on them or pressing against them, my mother estimated she broke a pane about 13 times. We'll let someone recounting a story from 73 years ago have a pass on the details but one thing she is certain about; her stepfather said if it happened again she was going to get "a whipping." She didn't really know what that was at the time but she knew it was bad. 

In the course of their friendship she invited the "Jap" kids, as the neighborhood referred to them. over for dinner. She forgot that was a bad thing in the moment but knowing she wasn't even allowed to play with the kids she deduced that a dinner may have been a mistake. Luckily her Uncle Ralph (Stewart) came over. Ralph was the uncle of her mother, and worked at Pillsbury where, with the war over and production of war supplies no longer needed in vast quantities, they had picked up research again on boxed cake mixes. He would come over armed with whatever the latest formulation was and they would see how well it worked.(3) She had also broken that 14th pane of glass so she told him about both that and the dinner invitation.

He told her not to worry, he'd take care of it. He called his niece, later my grandmother, still at work and said they had invited "the Japanese kids" over for dinner but she didn't have to worry, he had bought a ham and it was already in the oven. Then he got off the phone before she could object. He didn't drive a car so he walked to the hardware store and got a pane of glass and then a ham on the way back.

That evening the kids came over, but the whole family came with them, and the grandmother spoke no English at all, so it was probably uncomfortable for the adults but the kids did not care. They got to play together. Children can create a lot of change that way. She was allowed to play with them from then on.

After my mother finished the story I said, "Ma, I think you broke down some barriers there."

She said, "I guess, but I was 6 so I wasn't thinking about that. I wanted to play with them to see if Peter Pan could really fly."


Like all good stories, there are surprises in characters and when I thought about it later I felt like maybe Ralph was the real hero in that one.  

I have his details in my ancestry chart but know nothing personal about him. He was born in 1909, a time when many young people now, and especially on Twitter, seem to think everyone was in the KKK.(4) He'd been enlisted during World War II but clearly had no special animosity toward Asians. In other stories about him, he had no special special penchant for social justice, he just didn't want a 6-year-old to get in trouble.

Looking at the time period, this was a guy who few young people today would've expected to be compassionate toward minorities. He sure doesn't look compassionate.

Ralph Steward, social justice warrior before it ever existed as a term.

Proud Boys and Antifa today can argue over who is the most Nazi-ish and and why it is right to punch each other in the face, but Ralph was of a generation that saw what the Japanese had done in Nanking and what the Germans had done in Polish concentration camps - yet his generation still felt it was right to rebuild the countries of their former foes. How many of us can show that kind of grace toward enemies? Would we want to be called racist for doing it?

They knew the bitter war would be over and America would win but were still calm enough to be compassionate in victory. They made sure that combat troops, with their memories of hard-fought battles, did not occupy defeated countries, they created an occupation draft of garrison soldiers with different training who hadn't watched their friends die, and sent them to win the peace. 

Though the military is often derided by some elites today as uneducated and racist, those soldiers fought side-by-side with black units. It was the Army that desegregated before baseball or the U.S. government. It is instead stereotyping to claim an entire group of people, like the military or people from the 1940s, were racist, and it would be silly to tell them the Japanese didn't bomb Pearl Harbor, or that the Germans were not Nazis when Hitler got the same percentage of the German vote as President Bill Clinton got in 1992. 

It's silly to claim the term Wuhan Flu is inherently racist for the same reason. 

Facts are not racist, it is engaging in stereotypes despite evidence that is racist. The virus came from Wuhan, the Chinese obliterated the entire wet market that was ground zero. They refuse to let anyone visit the coronavirus research labs nearby. One of the bravest doctors in China, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, died fighting for awareness of COVID-19, and he called it the Wuhan Flu. I'd argue it's more disrespectful to wipe his legacy out.


If I ask most people what amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is, few will really know, but the uptake of the name "Lou Gehrig's Disease" was tremendous in getting research money devoted to it. It came into the public consciousness because a legendary baseball player(5) on America's Team, the New York Yankees, was diagnosed with it and then died a short time later.

Without Lou Gehrig, it would be like many other poorly-funded diseases, little known and pushed off to the sidelines while an irrational amount of money is spent on 'heart disease research.'

It is strange that dumb activists who don't know any better than to use coronavirus and COVID-19 interchangeably think Wuhan Flu is confusing other dumb people into believing China intentionally caused it and will beat up Asians on the street. It is even stranger that they are telling microbiologists that it's now racist to use the name of the location of the outbreak when we all know most of those doing the complaining never heard of Wuhan before January. Are they worried we will stop buying Chinese food? Put Chinese people into internment camps, like Democrats did with the Japanese during World War II?

It is manufactured drama in hopes they can tell future generations how great they were in fighting racism, but guess what? The same young people that today believe Uncle Ralph and everyone else in the 1940s was probably racist is going to get called racist in the future. Slamming the elders is what young people do to feel important. This manufactured drama will ring as hollow as the tone deaf version of "Imagine" celebrities created rather than donate some of their fabulous corporate-derived wealth to buying N95 masks.

The surname of the neighbors on my mother's street in 1947 was Pan. Clearly they weren't even Japanese. China was an allied country during World War II. They were discriminated against but they still lived in the U.S. and raised families here because they knew that even if America was not perfect, China was actually far worse. With World War II over and the Japanese threat removed, China had to try and stop an even bigger terror, in the form of Mao. No one was shooting Chinese people in the streets here, but they began executing millions of fellow Chinese in China. By 1951 they were even shooting at the same Allied troops that had saved them in the 1940s.

The older Asian community has long endured a kind of casual racism because it's still nothing close to what they endured at home.  Even positive stereotypes became used for racism. Racism against Asians was so accepted, even by universities like UC Berkeley, that young people of Asian descent who had American surnames were told to check White on the ethnicity box - being Asian lessened their chances of getting into a college even more than being a white person. Discrimination against Asians in the name of being affirmative became such a problem that it went to the Supreme Court and universities were told to stop using secret racial sauce in university admissions.

It still wasn't an Asian who won the case. It was a white woman. Asians couldn't even be allowed by progressives to win that one.

So while some people "of Asian descent" - their grandmother moved here or something - may choose to wrap themselves in the flag of tolerance and protecting their culture by smearing scientists, they have never experienced real racism. Unless they move to Asia, they never will.



I am told that the age of the Nuclear Family was better and we are at risk because families come in all configurations now but I have been unconvinced it really existed as an overwhelming default. I know it existed, the same way the zealot nutritionists who create USDA nutrition guidelines for 2% of the public can find people who can match their aspirational goal, but that doesn't mean non-traditional families were some glaring exception. One set of my grandparents stayed together until they died, one did not - the differences I could find was that one set lived in the country and the divorced did not, and the women divorced were married to jerks. My great-grandmother was married to my great-grandfather for the last 40 years of their lives and together prior to that while my mother counts her second stepfather as her real dad, and the lady he married after she passed away is an absolute treasure. She is the wife of a step-grandfather, ancestry charts don't even have a name for that, but if you tell me she isn't my grandmother we will fight in my basement.

(2) They all lost careers going off to war. It wasn't like now, where it will be a big deal and you can do some virtue signaling showing how much you respect soldiers by not replacing them, this was a military 11X the size of what we have now but when we had 33 percent of today's population. It dwarfed the army that won World War I, and that return had numerous problems when the government hung them out to dry.

To give the World War II veterans a break returning home the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, called the G.I. Bill, provided low-interest mortgages and tuition for colleges and trade schools. And in 1945, they finally also paid World War I veterans.

(3) Pillsbury would release the successful results of that research, the first chocolate cake mix in a box, in 1948.

(4) Such casual stereotypes are not special, many on the Internet casually call each other fascists, Nazis, bigots and sexist pigs, and if they have a relative who either fought Nazis or moved here from another country they feel a special moral right to casually demean the same people they feel like they are helping.

(5) How great? He played every game until the 1939 season, a consecutive streak of games only surpassed in 1998. When he took himself out of the game, and then out of baseball, in 1939 it was because he had only four hits in eight games. Imagine being such a world-class player you can get four hits off of major league pitching even with ALS so advanced you'll be dead two years later.