I’m scared of the hate more than the virus itself. To me, it’s the unintended yet inevitable consequence of our innate sense to blame and point fingers.
I see news stories of increasing xenophobia toward Asian Americans. I watch webinars hosted by national Asian organizations trying to encourage solidarity in a time period where my community lives in a newfound sense of fear. I speak with my fellow Asian American peers and see how our uneasiness is contextually reflected upon each other.
When I check social media, I see photos of people wearing masks that say “Thanks chinks”’ and listen to videos of Americans complaining about the presence of Asians because apparently, our “cousins” brought this pandemic upon the world. Even as I’m stuck in my room, cut off from the rest of the world, I feel these racist sentiments slap me across my face.
I know racism is an unfortunate factor of a region-originated disease. Yet, that doesn’t validate or give an excuse to perpetrate it, especially when the president encourages the rhetoric of the “Chinese virus.” In a country where racially instigated hate crimes still run rampant, I’ve seen articles about how a two year old and a six year old were stabbed in Texas, or how an Asian man was pushed and harassed on his way to the bus station.
And I wish I could just shrug these concerns, that these incidents would never happen to me or my loved ones, but living in East Tennessee, in a small town where only one percent of the population is Asian, I am nervous every time my family goes out. When my mom wants to go down to Wal-Mart to pick up groceries, I tell her to be careful. I have to explain to my twelve-year-old younger sister why I’m weary of wearing masks and drawing attention in public.
We are living in a world pandemic. At age seventeen, I am seeing my reality being turned upside down. I’ve experienced troubles from difficulties in online school, my inability to take the SAT for college admissions in five months, and important summer programs being canceled. My main priority should be to try to get through this, safely and with my health in mind.
My greatest fear should be getting COVID-19 and getting sick, not my Asianness.