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Thoughts of a Chinese Canadian on COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, our world has faced a severe global pandemic, alongside a wave of anti-Asian hate crimes. As a member of the Chinese community in Canada, I’ve been relatively lucky to have not experienced much racism, other than the occasional joke growing up. All throughout elementary and middle school, these racist remarks became a norm, something that everyone laughed at, forcing me and my Asian counterparts to laugh along or face social exclusion. As I got older, my culture became a very important part of my identity, yet I was not fully aware of the abundance of normalized racism toward the Asian community. It wasn’t until the recent events of COVID-19 that I comprehended the magnitude of Anti-Asian racism that existed within our world.

Coronavirus has been anything but pleasant, but nonetheless, I am thankful for it. It brought me to the realization that I needed to speak out on the topic of Asian racism, especially as a member of the Asian community. Racism toward the Asian community is not always something that gets talked about, and so many people are unaware that it even exists. So, to bring some awareness to the topic, let’s begin with how it all started.

Coronavirus had its first appearance in Wuhan, China, leading many people to believe it was our “dirty food” that caused the virus. People have begun calling it the “Chinese virus,” placing blame on the entire Chinese community. This inconsiderate language enables the racism in others, giving an outlet for people to partake in xenophobic acts. My first experience with racism in regard to COVID-19 was shortly after it became known. I remember going out one night with my Asian friends and our Uber driver asked us questions like, “Are you Chinese?” and “Have your families been to China recently?” These may seem like harmless questions at first, but she was implicating that because we were Asian, we were more likely to give her Coronavirus, solidifying the idea that Chinese people are “disease carrying creatures.”

COVID-19 did not start anti-Asian racism; it already existed within our world. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that this racism was starting to get recognition. Anti-Asian racism has become so normalized that it is no longer recognized and has become embedded into our society. As an example, the new fox-eye makeup trend mimics the typical eye shape of Asians, which many people have previously mocked. People do not realize the insensitivity of this trend because it has become so normal to pick on Asians for their smaller eyes. They’ll often respond saying, “It’s just a joke, no harm was done.” Yes, those comments may seem miniscule, but it doesn’t stop there. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 there has been an increase in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes happening all across the world. For example, CNN covered a story on an East Asian student studying in London, who was assaulted resulting in an injury to his right eye due to his Chinese ethnicity. The student reported that his assaulter made comments saying, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.” This act of violence has left him with facial fractures, with the possible need for reconstructive surgery. The New York Post also covered a story on a Brooklyn-woman who suffered from an acid attack causing second degree burns all over her body and face, as she was taking out the trash from her home. This is not okay. We should not be afraid to leave our homes in fear of what might happen. We are doing just as much as anyone else to prevent the virus and should not be treated as any less.

Chinese individuals cannot be blamed for COVID-19 and these hate crimes need to stop. It is during this time that we need unity and must work together to fight the virus. I am not the coronavirus. My culture is not yours to blame and attack. There is a common misconception that being Asian automatically means you have COVID-19 or have a higher likelihood of contracting it, when in reality this is not true. We are all going through this terrible pandemic together, suffering from the same adverse effects. The only difference between myself and you is that the Asian community has fallen victim to acts of inexcusable racism.

Cynthia is currently a third year life science student at McMaster University. Writing is one of her passions and she hopes to share a bit about herself through her articles and raise awareness about important issues
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