The United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has drawn controversy after unveiling its new Emerging and Infectious Diseases monthly journal cover on Instagram.
The image — since deleted off their account but still available on their website — was an 18th century Qing military rank badge.
In their caption, the CDC described a leopard standing among “swooping bats,” explaining that the animals on the badge “may also serve as zoonotic reservoirs capable of transmitting viral pathogens that can cause respiratory infections in humans,” like SARS and Covid-19.
Backlash immediately ensued. Users on Twitter criticized the CDC for using Chinese insignia to portray the spread of infectious diseases.
Rank badges come from across East Asia, China, Korea, Vietnam … The beautiful wild creatures are not just markers of rank & status, as the post claims, but also symbols of duty, dignity & decency. Don't forget these virtues when you deride them as “carriers of viruses.”@CDCgov pic.twitter.com/nNihw61YIX— Jin Xu (@xujnx) April 23, 2020
Rank badges come from across East Asia, China, Korea, Vietnam … The beautiful wild creatures are not just markers of rank & status, as the post claims, but also symbols of duty, dignity & decency. Don't forget these virtues when you deride them as “carriers of viruses.”@CDCgov pic.twitter.com/nNihw61YIX
— Jin Xu (@xujnx) April 23, 2020
Xiaoyu Weng, a curator at the Guggenheim Museum, called the image “an ignorant, foundationless attack on Chinese cultural heritage” in an Instagram story.
“You can see such symbols featured in historical art objects in museums like the Met, for example,” Weng also told the Daily Dot. “By stripping free of the complexity, this association with Covid-19 is a baseless and very irresponsible way to disseminate fake knowledge. Such information continues to exacerbate the systematic racism and cultural prejudice exposed by this pandemic.”
The spread of Covid-19 has seen a rise in anti-Asian racism and even hate crimes. Stereotypes and rumors about Chinese eating habits abound, and Donald Trump drew criticism for repeatedly referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus.”
After removing the journal cover from their Instagram account, the CDC made a new post describing precautions to take when ordering takeout — with an image of Asian food.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Centers for Disease Control (@cdcgov)
A post shared by Centers for Disease Control (@cdcgov)
Users were quick to call them out again. “After you were forced to delete your post yesterday, did anyone think about insinuation of using a picture of Asian takeout food in your post about food safety?” reads one comment with hundreds of likes.
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