by Austin Yung
“The Chinese Virus,” as mis-named by our president, Donald Trump, has brought our lives to a screeching halt. The once-bustling sounds of people commuting to and from work have vanished, yet hate crimes towards Asian Americans continue to rise. Across the country, Asian Americans face levels of discrimination that show a slight regression towards the “Yellow Peril” era – where animosity towards Asians grew due to an influx of western migration just before the twentieth century. While I understand we don’t necessarily live in a perfect society, we should, as a nation, strive to bring each other up during this time of crisis instead of further dividing our already split nation.
I’ve heard every stereotype in the book, from people yelling “chink” from their Jeep Wrangler’s window to my peers ignorantly yet seriously asking me if I ate cats. Remarks like these have always reminded me that my identity at first glance will always be my race and not my nationality, but I have tried not to give them a second thought. Throughout my 18 years of living as an Asian American, I’ve faced my fair share of racism, but not with such fear as right now. I fear for my family’s well-being, that one day I’ll see my mom, dad, brother, uncles, aunts, grandmas, or grandpas become another statistic due to this growing prejudice. It’s even more heartbreaking for me to know that my grandpa, a fearless and prideful Korean man who made a life for himself and my grandma in America, is scared to take a walk around his neighborhood due to his race.
Beyond myself and my family, the current situation impacts everyone in the Asian American community. Back in February, an elderly Asian man was left in tears as two suspects robbed his garbage bags full of recyclables, then verbally assaulted him as one of the suspects who filmed the robbery stated, “I hate Asians,” according to ABC News. Only four months into 2020, the number of news reports regarding hate crimes against Asian Americans continue to increase, as a more recent case portrayed an Asian lady taking out her trash in Brooklyn when an unidentified man poured an unknown substance on her, which led to several chemical burns on her face, neck, and back.
According to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), they received nearly 15 thousand reports of COVID-19 related discrimination from March 19 to April 15 with 58 percent of these incidents occurring in California and New York. “Asian Americans are experiencing such a moment right now. The pandemic is reminding us that our belonging is conditional. One moment we are Americans, the next we are all foreigners, who ‘brought’ the virus here,” stated actor John Cho in an Op-Ed piece in the LA Times.
Even our own community isn’t safe from this prejudice. A Chinese-American student at LGHS, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently faced racially implied remarks while standing in line at Whole Foods. “I was just waiting in line at Whole Foods minding my own business when this man started staring me down while holding his kids back. As he walked to the back of the line he stopped in front of me and said, ‘Step back. You people have done enough,’” the student recalled. “I understood why [this man] said the things he said, but it still saddens me to know that we’re backtracking on our many years of progress on social justice reforms.”
We also need to be wary of what we read online, as the spread of false information can lead to harmful conclusions. For instance, many believe that the cause of the virus came from the consumption of bats, but its origins are still unknown. However, this led to a culturally insensitive (now former) art director at Lululemon to promote a shirt called “bat fried rice” with a Chinese take out box, the words, No Thank You, and bat-winged chopsticks. While I understand something like this could potentially be a joke, it only further segregates and stigmatizes Asians, and is a huge step backward in our progress towards equality.
Now keep in mind, I’m not arguing that Asian American discrimination is worse than others; it should never be a contest of who is more oppressed. If anything, this is the time to empathize with the pain others are feeling and focus on the task at hand: flattening the curve. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions and thoughts of others, it’s important to treat others with the respect they deserve, especially in a time where millions are out of a job and hundreds of thousands of people are dying. No one group willingly decided to spread this virus across the globe. We all need to do our part when fighting this virus; everyone is struggling, so it’s important that we work together and make this nothing but another chapter in the history textbooks.
It’s essential to remember in times like these that every action we take can affect others in a positive or negative way; so please, stay inside and be mindful of those who surround you. We don’t need to assign blame; we need to direct our attention on how we can move forward as a nation. We can do this.
(Sources: NY Times, LA Times, ABC News, NBC News, Japanese American Citizens League, Business Insider, The Guardian, A3PCON, BuzzFeed News, Forbes)