Algonquin Township highway commissioner: 'Chinese coronavirus' post wasn't racist
Andrew Gasser has been no stranger to controversy during his term as Algonquin Township highway commissioner.
But Gasser does not understand why his post on the highway department Facebook page, made on Sunday, has drawn such ire.
Gasser went down a list with five bullet points to update residents. His fourth read as follows: "Be Kind. The Chinese Coronavirus is impacting so many of us."
That line set off some residents who considered the use of "Chinese" with the coronavirus as racist. Gasser says that could not be further from his intention.
"When I wrote it, I wasn't trying to call anybody out," he said. "It's not racist at all. When I wrote it, it was just where (the coronavirus) came from. It came from China. Not that Chinese people are bad people and we should be inciting hate or anything.
"It was a point of origin, not that Chinese people are bad. Where did it come from? It came from Wuhan, China. When I wrote it, there was no hate, malice or anything in my head. It was like, 'Hey, we got this thing going on, we have to take care of it.'"
Some people who read the post disagreed.
Haleigh Langer posted: "commissioner is racist and bigoted. look at how he talks to concerned citizens! disgusting excuse of a man."
Sarah Sica Elvin posted: "Disgustingly racist posts. Whomever is handling the social media for this department should be fired."
President Donald Trump took similar criticism last month when he referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus." Trump, too, said it was not racist, that he was just pointing toward the virus' point of origin.
Gasser acknowledged he has dealt with his share of upset people in the past, but said he was not looking to anger anyone.
"If I want to get something out there, I don't have a problem with doing it, but this was not that at all," he said. "There's no hate there. It has a list of bullets, about brush pickup and things like that. There was no premeditated 'How can I spin up somebody today?'
"There are some very bad words to describe Asians. My (15-year-old) son is Asian. It's not like I'm not aware of the issues that go along with that. It has nothing to do with racism. Some people want to make a big stink about it. If there was something truly derogatory or inflammatory, then I would understand. Honestly, there are some people who just want to be offended to be offended."
Gasser said, if it comes up again, he will use a different term.
"I'll definitely phrase it differently," he said. "It wasn't my intent to fire anybody off. I didn't call for violence or anything. I called 10 or 15 people back and most of them understood."
Gasser also said the Algonquin United Methodist Church will hold a food pantry at 2 p.m. Friday to help those affected by COVID-19. The pantry will be at the Algonquin Township Highway Department's site, 3702 Northwest Highway, Building 6A, in Crystal Lake.