“Divide and conquer” is a well utilized tactic that has historically wielded pre-existing prejudices in an effort to divide communities. While it may seem like an outdated political trick straight from a history textbook, a clear example of this occurred in Virginia, USA this week.

Libertarian Republican Nick Freitas used his personal website to sell packs of three assorted masks for $15; the revenue partly funded his campaign for a House delegation. Each mask bears a phrase that widely sets it apart from one’s conventional face coverings: “COVID-19 made in China.”

This phrase blatantly insinuates that it is solely the Chinese who are culpable for the global suffering being inflicted, which is misleading and simply false.

An open letter published by the NAKASEC Action Fund stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed a “sharp increase of racially motivated attacks and discrimination against people of Chinese descent.”

Thus, due to the weight of authority held by public figures, such a statement is clearly going to exacerbate anti-Asian racist sentiments in America. Freitas is only further supporting and encouraging bigots by providing them a platform and a figurehead to rally around. Asians in Virginia have faced not only workplace discrimination but even physical and verbal assault as well.

It is extremely disappointing to see potential leaders of the public fail to understand the importance and repercussions of their actions and words during such critical times.

Fellow Republican Mark Cole stated that any claims suggesting the “made in China” joke would inflame racist passions were “silly.” He remarked that the situation was being “motivated by politics,” further demonstrating his failure to grasp that every citizen’s daily life is governed by politics.

In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) issued guidelines against using geographical names for diseases to avoid stigmatisation. Politics are what dictate the social order, etiquette, and privileges prevailing in a country. Cole’s false belief that politics are separate from personal life is unusually daft for a person in his position.