What it’s Like Being Asian During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Asians and Asian Americans have faced heightened discrimination and hate crimes, yet little has been done to prevent this hatred from continuing. Being Chinese American and living in New York City, I've never felt like I stuck out in a crowd until March of 2020. 

Gloves and pamphlets on coronavirus Photo by iMattSmart from Unsplash The normalization of anti-Asian sentiment without a doubt has been set forth by our own government, as former president Donald Trump has referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” on multiple occasions. In addition, more recently, England’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, released a video wishing everyone a happy Lunar New Year, to which he received backlash and hateful comments. Some of the comments included: “Are you serious? We didn’t celebrate OUR own New Year let alone wanting to wish China a happy new year,” “Happy New Variant more like,” and, “Unbelievable...they ruin the world but hey happy new year from the UK let’s have some more! Grow some minerals Boris.”

woman wearing mask using hand sanitizer Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels While I watched the news of multiple Asians being verbally and physically attacked on the streets, quarantining became vital for my protection not only from the coronavirus, but from the infectious xenophobia spreading in our country as well. From the beginning of the pandemic to now, I've heard and seen multiple accounts of racism towards Asians, including my own friends. My first day at Boston University, an older man called both me and my roommate “beautiful chinks” inside a Starbucks. Not only were the surrounding people stunned, but also silent. More recently, my boyfriend and I were walking down the street when a group of teenagers walked past us and shouted, “You chinks gave us COVID!”

These weren’t even the first experiences I had with anti-Asian hate speech. Before coming to Boston I'd been followed, spit on, and yelled at by strangers on the street simply because of my race and their racism. As for my friends, my best friend was stopped by the NYPD in a subway station to have her temperature checked, while they let people of other races slide by. Another friend of mine was stared at and blatantly avoided on a subway car simply because of race-based assumptions.

Why is this important? I believe sharing these experiences shows how close to home and how harmful the rise in racism is for me, my friends, and other Asians worldwide. Being called a chink and followed on the street is scarring, and yet these experiences are rarely talked about. While our government is of no help to this spread of hatred, we can help our friends and stand up to the hate speech, rather than being a bystander.

While it is not always safe to stand up to an aggressor, there are plenty of online resources to report incidents, sign petitions, and seek help if you have been a victim of a hate crime.

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