As you’re gearing up for the fall season, you’d do well to remember that there are lots of local apple orchards around, and it’s still possible to have safe, outdoor fun while respecting mask mandates and other pandemic-era safety regulations
Cider Flats Apple Orchard, located in Hinckley, told its Facebook followers much the same thing at the end of last month… but with some disturbingly anti-Asian sentiment peppered in.
“Due to the utter chaos with the China Virus the following WILL NOT BE OFFERED at Cider Flats Apple Orchard this year,” an August 25 Facebook post read. The prohibited activities included free cider and bathrooms. Most of the 450 or so commenters were more concerned with that first sentence than anything that followed.
In case anyone forgot, the virus (or, rather, the illness it causes) is called COVID-19 or novel coronavirus. The fact that it was first reported in the Wuhan region of China does not change its designation, or the fact that it is an issue in nearly every country on Earth.
Referring to it as somehow Chinese does nothing to prevent the spread of disease, but does a lot to spread hateful sentiments toward Asian Americans. Since the onset of the pandemic, our state has seen reports of people of Asian descent (Chinese or not) being followed, accosted, attacked, threatened, and hit with tree branches by angry white men while they’re trying to enjoy a walk in the fucking woods.
Several commenters on Cider Flats’ Facebook post tried to point this out – that these words weren’t harmless, and could incite people to violence. But rather than apologize, the orchard doubled down.
“Yes, I called it the China Virus,” a post published the next day read. “No, I am not ignorant or racist. No, I am not disrespectful. No, I will not change it. No, I will not apologize for it. Did I show my political bias, possibly. If Kazakhstan is the origin of apples, that’s good to know.”
DNA analysis indicates that apples may have indeed originated in the Tian Shan mountains of present-day Kazakhstan. But a delicious fruit is not the same as a deadly virus -- nor, for that matter, is anyone going around calling them Kazakhstan Fruit.
About 4,500 people commented on that particular post.
Then, the next day, Cider Flats went ahead and tripled down.
“In regards to the China Virus,” it began, somewhat unpromisingly. “I take full responsibility for my thoughts, words, and actions but will never let anyone every try to put another’s thoughts, words, or actions on my shoulders. If you feel you or your family are in any danger you should called the police and implement your 2nd amendment rights to keep safe!”
This time, the business (again, an apple orchard) went on to promise that “until this cancel culture stops trying to smother” the author’s “right to voice [their] opinion,” the phrase “China Virus” would appear in every post they made.
“Yes, I will go the distance on this,” they wrote.
Sure enough, a September 3 post that began with pie pumpkins and squash ended with another rant on the “China Virus.”
“Okay, I’ll surrender and never call it China Virus again… I have decided to call it what it really is, the CCP Virus! The Communist Chinese Party Virus so we never forget exactly where it originated.”
Commenters turned up yet again, this time threatening a boycott.
Three subsequent Facebook posts have been all about apples, cider, pumpkins, and rain. A few responders displayed that they still hadn’t forgotten by commenting, simply, “Trash.” A few talked sugar and promised they’d visit.
Cider Flats didn’t respond to interview requests, so we don’t know if this new silence on the issue is the sign of a change of heart, or a twinge of fear in the face of mounting public outcry. But the previous posts are still making their way around social media, paired with vows not to visit.
It’s worth repeating here that despite this wholeass pandemic not being their responsibility in any way, many Minnesotans of Chinese descent have been banding together to fight coronavirus even while facing angry threats and prejudice, donating massive amounts of money and masks. You can learn more about that here.