Op-Ed: Being an Asian American Right Now During COVID-19 in the U.S. Is Terrifying
By Allison Maladore, MBS
Allison is an intern with TCP and a Doctoral Student of Public Health at Claremont Graduate University. TCP stands with our AAPI community members. View our statement here.
My parents are refugees who fled a war that happened on their country’s soil and found a new home in the US. They were barely teenagers. They fled in boats from Laos to reach the safety of Thailand in refugee camps as they waited to flee to the United States of America. They encountered war first-hand, feared for their lives, and never knew for certain whether they would make it, until they did.
I take their experience for granted, having been born and raised in this country and by many standards, as “Westernized” and “American” as they come- except my appearance. Even with my ombre-bleached Asian hair, the moment you look at me you probably have some sort of preconceived notion and judgement with my age, gender, and race. They are likely not bad notions or thoughts, but still, some opinion exists face value like everything else in our society. To an extent, microaggressions, or little facial reactions and body language, can occur in response upon sight of a person who may be different from you. These microaggressions can be difficult to hide-and existing as a minority it becomes second nature to receive them, although still slightly unsettling each time.
The extreme end on the microaggression scale becomes hate, and when acted upon in response to race, evolves into a racially motivated hate crime. How did the scale tip so far off that a human being desires to cause lasting physical, emotional, and at times irreparable damage to another human being?
The ever-increasing news coverage of violent hate crimes against Asian Americans in response to fears of COVID-19 is disturbing-yet the ever-increasing news coverage is not coverage enough. We need leaders to stand in solidarity with us, we need those in power to showcase their support, and we need to be heard. Our fears, our worries, our future is at stake. It is only a matter of time until a massive violent act is committed against Asian Americans in the realms of a large-scale shooting. We are still on the side of prevention and we need to act quickly with awareness. We need those with voices of influence in multiple levels of capacity to communicate that COVID-19 is not a race. It is not Asian. It is a virus that unflinchingly attacks the human body irrespective of race, age, and gender, from the inside out and yes, it is incredibly scary and threw our world as we know it into chaos. But it is not a race.
My parents are now proud Americans who came to this country over thirty years ago to flee a war. They grew a beautiful family and settled in suburban Connecticut where I will always call home. But I am scared for them now, in this new war, with COVID-19 on so many different levels. I am terrified every time my mother steps out of the house to go to the grocery store with a mask on. I worry about my father who must drive to work daily and will likely need to stop at a gas station sometime. I do not want their journeys, their stories, their lives, to be reduced to their race and have their livelihoods decided based on hate and fear. I do not want America to finally see the importance of this after a large-scale shooting fueled by hate against Asian-Americans.
We need to get ahead of this. We as humans, need to unify to fight not just the disease itself but the racism and other intricate ramifications stemming from it. Understanding is everything, and with a little bit more awareness, compassion, and empathy, I know we can achieve it.