Being Asian-American in Light of Recent Events


Photo courtesy of Nicholas Wan

On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings at spas and massage parlors tore through Atlanta, Georgia. Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent, and while the perpetrator claimed the attack was not racially-fueled, many Americans were unconvinced. 

Then, some ten days later, the San Francisco area saw a series of attacks against elderly Asian individuals, which has since sparked protests against racism directed at Asians. 

Hearing about these shocking events horrified me. 

The attacks are appalling and disgusted me to such a degree that I had to take time to calm myself down before writing this reflection.

Assaults and shootings are never okay, first and foremost. Attacks on the defenseless elderly are especially heinous. 

When I first learned of the events mentioned above, I grieved for the victims, but not just because they are Asians, but because they are, like each and every one of us, human beings. Regardless of how we look and from where we come, we are all humans at the core.

While these events hurt me as a human being, I know that xenophobia is probably the motive behind these attacks. 

On a country-wide scale, racism towards Asian-Americans has increased, very likely as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in China. Statistically, there has been a rise in online harassment aimed at Asian-Americans during the outbreak, but correlation is not causation. One cannot say for certain that COVID-19 caused an increase in anti-Asian sentiment, but this idea is one about which many Asian-Americans concur. The disturbing videos of recent events certainly substantiate this belief.

Many also point to Donald Trump’s referring to the COVID-19 virus as the “China Virus” or “Kung Flu” as another reason for the rise of xenophobia in the past year. Whether or not Trump’s nicknames for the virus were meant to be taken as jokes, it’s fair to say that at the very least they show extremely bad judgement. 

When Professor Harris asked me if I wanted to write a piece about my experience as an Asian-American in light of the events above, I was a bit hesitant. I found myself thinking back to my middle and high school years, and wondered if revisiting these uncomfortable times would be worthwhile. 

Nevertheless, I knew recent events warranted a response. 

In school, classmates often bullied me because of my race. I recall the many times that they made squinty-eyed gestures at me and taunted me with “ching chong this, ching chong that.” 

Two insults still stick in my mind, even after all these years. 

When I was in 8th grade, one student accosted me during lunch, saying that he hoped I would get deported to China. 

I don’t recall having ever said anything that could have warranted his attack. In fact, I can’t remember having ever interacted with him. At the time, the incident both angered and amused me, since my parents and I were born in the United States. So where would I get deported to? New York?

Another instance occurred when I was in 10th grade, when another classmate took aim at me, again in the lunchroom. 

The student in question ate with his group of friends at the same lunch table where my friends and I sat. One of my friends and the boy who insulted me had gotten into verbal altercations back in grade school, which meant that his group and my group would sometimes hurl insults at each other from across the table. 

I generally tried to keep to myself, but I would eventually get caught in the crossfire. Most insults were childish banter, but one time they crossed a line. The bully, as I think of him, told me that he wished the Hiroshima bomb had killed me. 

Until then, as I mentioned before, I’d seen myself as just a kid, not so much a kid of Asian descent. In part, I think that’s because growing up, my father never talked much about his Chinese heritage and how that heritage made me unique from most of the other students at my school. Being Asian in a largely white community wasn’t something I thought much about. 

The racist taunting in middle school changed that. 

Fast forward to Moravian College, where my three years have been nothing short of incredible. No one here has insulted me because of my race. No one has treated me like I was different than any other student. 

I’m grateful for the welcome my peers have shown me. Still I know such kindness, understanding, and acceptance may not be the case for many of my Asian peers. 

Anti-Asian sentiment exists on ours and on every other campus — as it unfortunately exists throughout this country — as evidenced by the recent events in Atlanta, San Francisco, and elsewhere. 

In spite of that, I still believe that America can stand as a unified country, where people see each other as fellow humans first and members of particular races second. Seeing the crowds of people from different backgrounds that have recently rallied to the defense of Asian individuals has given me hope in that regard. 

Whenever people of all ethnicities come together to fight discrimination and racism, in any form, wherever they find it, I see the possibility for a better and more truly equitable and United States of America.