I Am Not A Virus

On February 24th, 23-year-old Jonathan Mok from Singapore was punched and kicked in London by four men who yelled, “We don’t want your coronavirus in our country” in a brutal assault leaving Mok with substantial facial injuries and a broken bone. 

Around that same time, an elderly Asian man was assaulted and reduced to tears as he was collecting cans. The assault was caught on camera and multiple racial slurs can be heard on the tape. 

29-year-old Korean interpreter, Jiye Seong-Yu, who lives in the Netherlands was riding her bike on March 2nd when two men drove past her on a scooter yelling “Chinese,” and then the man on the back seat tried to punch her. 

Since the outbreak was officially reported to the World Health Organization on December 1st, reports of racism and xenophobia have soared, especially against the Asian American community. 

Thankfully, I have not been assaulted, but as time goes on, I’m becoming more and more afraid of leaving my apartment. At first, it was kind of funny. If I coughed I could clear up seats on a crowded TRAX car. If someone said something racist about me having coronavirus I could sneeze in their direction and watch them scramble away from me in fear. But since a shipment of N95 face masks came in from my parents, I’ve become more of a target. 

To put my parent’s mind at ease I’ve promised them I would wear face masks if I was going to a crowded place. My boyfriend’s parents have also sent him some masks so now we’re a couple of Asians walking around a white-dominated city currently in a toilet-paper-buying frenzy because they thinking that coronavirus is a Chinese disease. It’s not a very safe situation. 

I can see how people react to me now. The dirty looks, the distasteful scoffs, the fear in people’s eyes as I come close to them in my tasteful pastel pink medical mask. It’s uncomfortable; sometimes I can ignore it, but the lingering fear that someone will assault me or someone I love is ever-increasing and unignorable. 

It’s not unheard of that the rise of a new infectious disease leads to a rise in xenophobia and racism. The majority of people are looking for a scapegoat. It’s been happening for hundreds of thousands of years, from blaming the Jewish population for the bubonic plague and African Americans for ebola. But really, it is 2020, not 1882. Scapegoating may be fine for all the white people out there, but I’m not standing for it.

Stop using the coronavirus or any other disease as an excuse for being racist. My food is not dirty, nor are my hygiene standards poorer than white Americans. I haven’t eaten a bat. I’m not going to give you coronavirus, because I am not a virus. I am a human being. I like soy sauce and rice, I wash my hands for 20 seconds multiple times throughout the day. The only difference between me and any other middle-class American is that I do not have the luxury of ignoring hateful and discriminatory acts of malice.