By Yvonne Li
DISCLAIMER: I just want to say that all of this is from my perspective and/or my opinion. I know and understand that racism and discrimination isn’t a new topic to our community or to our world. I am NOT saying that racism didn’t matter before it happened to Asian Americans because it did and it does and it will. Anything of that sort is important to bring attention to and we need to work as a community to eliminate racism.
When we think of marginalized groups, Asian Americans don’t normally come to mind, especially in California or in the United States. In the Bay Area, from my own experience, Asian Americans aren’t treated like minorities, but at the end of the day, we are a minority. After the COVID-19 outbreak, there is no doubt that Asian Americans have felt an extra target on their back and have been the subject of many racial attacks and slurs. This all stems from the idea that this virus came from the Chinese and that this global pandemic is “China’s fault.” Not only are people blaming China for this outbreak, they have also begun to call the Chinese “gross” and “dangerous.” My uncle, who lives in New York City, took the subway every day to work before New York started shelter-in-place. Every day, while waiting for the subway to arrive, people would yell at him. “Go back to where you came from!” “You are the reason for this pandemic!” “No one wants you here!” The verbal abuse then triggered more violent actions. People threw water bottles and other trash at him. These same things are happening here. There was an incident in Cupertino, right in our backyard, where two Chinese restaurants had their windows smashed and were broken into. Luckily, no one was hurt but the message that it sent did enough damage.
Chinese Americans are yelled at, spit at, attacked on the streets for something that they had no control over. Many feel unsafe to even leave their homes to shop for groceries. This isn’t a new phenomenon. After 9/11, many Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians were attacked. One clear difference, however, is that the leader of the country then urged Americans to stop. Our leader today has only added fuel to the fire. By calling COVID-19 the Chinese Virus, he only further separated the racial groups and in a way condoned the racist actions happening on the street. I think it goes without saying that President Trump has made a lot of mistakes regarding this pandemic and how it has been handled in the United States; however, defending calling COVID-19 the Chinese Virus is something that I believe will never be justified.
When I first heard about what was going on with Asian Americans in response to the coronavirus, it made me feel sick. How could people so quickly turn on their community? It just didn’t make sense to me. For a while, I chose to ignore it because I thought it could never happen in my community or to someone that I knew. As the virus became more serious, more and more were coming out about how Asian Americans were attacked and even tortured on the streets. It wasn’t until the incident in Cupertino and hearing that my cousin was kicked out of a store in Boston that I began noticing the little things around me that added up to the bigger picture. People always stood further from me than they did from anyone else. People always looked at me as if thinking “Why aren’t you at home?” These passive actions affect people just as much as getting trash thrown at you.
Discrimination of any sort is wrong, point-blank. Seeing the impact that it has made on my friends and family allowed me to understand the weight of one’s actions, either intentional or not. I encourage you to think about your actions and their possible implications. This is a challenging time that we are in, but everyone is still human and has feelings. We are more alike than we are different. Don’t let this pandemic or anything else get in the way of being kind. It costs nothing to be nice.