Over the summer I wrote about what the plague of racism and anti-blackness meant to me in the wake of the brutal murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. I think my perspective was shared by the vast majority of the Chinese first-generation immigrant diaspora – kids who grew up being taught to shut up and be ignored, hoping that hard work and silence would lead to acceptance in western society. Well, here we go again.
In that blog post, I set some context by writing about my disdain for Anti-Asian rhetoric by senior government officials, who consistently justify putting a target on the backs of Asian-Americans for their political games.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how toxic his [Trump’s] behavior is to Chinese Americans. Trump’s cesspool of a Twitter feed consistently went after China. Perhaps he was blaming the CCP’s inaction for the pandemic, but ultimately his words are interpreted differently by the masses. I heard many anecdotes of Asian-Americans getting harassed and assaulted on the streets, being told to “keep the virus in your country”. When people in a position of power use questionable language or phrases to describe a situation, the aftershocks amongst the masses are detrimental, regardless of the original intentions. Even if Trump believes he is not a racist, his language encourages racist behavior and normalizes discrimination against many groups.
Seven months later, we’re seeing more of the same shit all day – senior citizens getting beaten in the streets, assaults in public transportation, vandalism, and then a shooting at a nail salon leaving 8 people dead. The Atlanta nail salon was just a few blocks away from an H Mart in a primarily East-Asian neighborhood. Even in the heart of our own communities, these atrocities are being committed and there was nothing we could’ve done to prevent it.
So what does racism against Asians feel like?
The cowards who choose to go and carry out hate crimes love to target those who can’t defend themselves – senior citizens, the disabled, or the frail. What has the old grandma going to the farmer’s market done to deserve getting attacked or harassed in the streets? We used to fear that our elderly would get sick of COVID-19, now we fear that some hateful fool would assault them.
What’s been going on lately isn’t new. Hateful attacks on Asians have been going on for years – the Atlanta shooting was just a breaking point. Ultimately, I think this is a symptom of a far more complex problem faced by immigrants and minorities all throughout North America. We often gather together, originally because of racist immigration policies that resulted in specific zoning laws (Chinatowns, Black Ghettos, etc.), but now because we seek familiarity and comfort. This might be a hot take, but I think a big source of the racism and hate between minority groups is because of how clustered we are. We need to stick together more and understand the struggles that we face collectively.
I complained about how inflammatory language by officials puts a target on AAPI members of the community. Well, now I have a personal anecdote for it. A local city councillor in my hometown of Windsor, Ontario, decided that it’d be appropriate to tweet about his disdain for the “Chinese flu”.
Sounds like you need a quick virus 101 crash course; I, or any of my Gr. 11 students can offer you one for free. Wish you a speedy recovery from a Chinese Canadian in Essex— Liwei Sun (@MsSunBio) April 10, 2021
I wanted to end this on a positive note. After my mother replied to the hateful councillor’s tweet, I read through the rest of the thread to see overwhelming rejection of his behavior. It warmed my heart to see that the local community stood up for their neighbors – understanding that compassion and kindness for your fellow human were the most important things to remember. I’m glad that we as a society are willing to talk about individual struggles and acknowledge that we can do better. In due time, there will be a generation of children born who don’t need to witness unwarranted hate. Until then, we keep moving forward and remember a simple mantra:
“Above all is humanity, none else”