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Being Asian American in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic


While 2020 has been a year I would imagine we would all like to forget, there were some bright spots, such as Parasite winning the Oscar for Best Picture and being the first film in a language other than English to do so. As an Asian American, seeing people who look like me win a prestigious award in a field that has historically been dominated by white people was truly amazing and it made me proud to be Asian. Soon after the award season, though, 2020 went downhill as COVID-19 made its way around the world, tragically killing hundreds of thousands of people.

As COVID-19 made its way across America, President Donald Trump began referencing the deadly virus as the “China Virus.” Growing up as a Chinese American in downstate New York, I’ve almost always felt comfortable with who I am. I would sometimes face insensitive jokes about my eyes or whether or not I ate dogs, but I learned to let those go through the years. However, the President of the United States, a title that is supposed to represent respect, referring to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” has struck a chord with me and has made me feel somewhat uncomfortable to be an Asian American in the age of COVID-19. When he first used the term suggesting that Chinese people are responsible for this devastating illness, it only screamed to me the danger that the Asian American community was about to face because of his words.

While I have personally not been physically or verbally attacked since the pandemic and the president’s rhetoric began, I have heard and read about countless stories of other Asian Americans being attacked and blamed for the coronavirus which has in a way prepared to possibly face incidents when I go out in public. According to the forum Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) Hate set up, there have been over 2500 reports of anti-Asian discriminatory acts from March through early August. People have been spat on, verbally harassed and one family was even stabbed. I can only blame the President’s language for enabling these senseless attacks.

In addition to Trump’s use of “China Virus,” he’s also used “Kung-Flu” and “Wuhan Virus.” On top of that, he is not the only public official to use these words as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also used these terms. Do they not know how powerful their words can be to people? When they use terms like these, it enables their followers and perpetuates hate. They have all had many opportunities to change their language; however, they have chosen not to which further legitimizes the racist attacks that Asian-Americans are facing everyday of this pandemic, that the Trump administration has yet to manage to control in the U.S.

In response to the rhetoric that Trump and other public officials use when referring to COVID-19 and the rise in attacks against Asian-Americans, on Sept. 17 the House of Representatives passed a resolution that condemns anti-Asian sentiment from public officials and calls for authorities to investigate hate crimes related to COVID-19. 

Donald Trump and other public officials that continue to call COVID-19 the “China Virus” must be held accountable for their words that have affected Asian Americans across the country. There is no reason to incite fear in other people. Asians are not a virus. We are your friends, neighbors and fellow Americans who deserve just as much respect and kindness as anybody else in this country. 

Emily Tsoi

Geneseo '21

Emily Tsoi is a Senior English major with a minor in Art History. She is an avid journal writer who has one too many rolls of washi tape. When she isn’t studying or journaling, she enjoys reading, watching 80s movies and going to baseball games.
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