Since COVID-19 first hit American shores, Asian-Americans have faced a slew of hate crimes all across the country, putting them in danger in their own communities and left with little choice but to hide away in fear. These events, sparked by such figures as Donald Trump characterizing the pandemic with racist language like the “Chinese Flu,” have increased in frequency steadily but surely as the pandemic drags on. The root of the issue is Asian-Americans, particularly those of Chinese descent, being wrongfully blamed for bringing Coronavirus—which, to date, has torn through the United States unlike any other country as a result of poor government response and negligence—to this country.
From the Bay Area to Washington, D.C. to, especially, New York City, headlines report attack after attack on innocent citizens. A mother dragged across the sidewalk by her jacket, an elderly woman set on fire on the street, a young woman spat on and verbally assaulted in the Subway. Most of the attackers, often maskless amidst the pandemic, have not been charged with committing hate crimes, but the frequency of these events is telling enough.
Fortunately, physical recovery appears common amongst the victims of these attacks, but professionals across fields recognize the potential long-lasting effects these events might have, not only amongst the Asian-American community but any victim of race-based violence.
Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson, a psychologist employed at the National Science Foundation, focuses her research on the long-lasting psychological effects of hate crimes.
“If you’re a minority person and this happens to you, you’re going to be more fearful [than would a victim of another crime], you’re going to question your place in the world,” she said in an interview with The New York Times.
While COVID-19 has technically been easier on the Asian-American community than others (beat in numbers infected by white Americans nearly 16-fold, and Black Americans about three-fold), this pandemic has by no means helped their condition in this country; widespread, fallacious racist thought has tarnished their businesses and reputation. Asian-American-owned small businesses, many of them restaurants, have been among the worst hit by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. From February to April there was a 22% overall decline in small business owner activity, while Asian-American business owner activity dropped by 26%.
On top of the struggle Asian-American-owned businesses have faced overcoming stigmatization and hateful reservations, attacks towards employees and places of business have put a halt to regular operation as well. The story of father and son Jason Wang and David Shi, for example, is one of a restaurant’s humble beginnings as a food cart to multiple locations across New York City— fourteen at the beginning of the pandemic, and eight to date. Multiple employees across the city have faced aggression throughout the course of the pandemic, to the point of the restaurant being forced to close at 8:30 p.m. every night for the safety of their employees as they make their way home from work.
More directly than ever before, though, Asian-Americans are being forced to see that the darkest part of our population cannot shake the shallow view of their populus being nothing more than temporary visitors.