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I Am Not a Virus

By Olivia Wong

I am not a virus. Neither are my brothers, my parents, or my grandparents. With seemingly never-ending assaults on the elderly coupled with the tragic Atlanta shooting, this past week has shaken up the entire Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

With detrimental rhetoric and ignorant phrases such as “the China virus” or “Kung Flu” floating around the United States, verbal and physical attacks on Asian Americans have exploded with over 3,000 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes since March of 2020. Some people may see these words as harmless, but they have immense power. When someone is throwing punches at an 83-year-old woman while spitting these same words, it is clear that calling a virus “the China plague” is not just a joke. Other incidents consist of but are not limited to a man throwing acid on a woman in Brooklyn, girls verbally and physically harassing an Uber driver in San Francisco, basketball players calling Jeremy Lin “coronavirus” on the court, a woman cursing at a couple in New York City, and people pushing the elderly to the cement in several locations. All of these assaults were unprovoked.

Source by Olivia Wong

On March 14, 2021 at an anti-Asian hate rally outside of the Nassau County Executive Offices, a woman stands with the names of those who have been victims of violence due to COVID-19 racism.

However, negative perspectives of Asian Americans did not just start with the pandemic. From the mocking of our eyes to the distasteful sounds that taunt Asian accents to the stinging question of “where are you really from,” all of these stereotypes and assumptions have affected the way multiple generations have grown up. Many times, it seems as if people do not see Asian Americans as true Americans by the common phrase of “go back to China,” which makes us feel like we do not belong in this country. The truth is, parents and grandparents have worked so hard to earn a living in the United States just like so many other immigrants, and in fact, many families have lived here for several generations, but we are still treated as “forever foreigners.”

An upsetting aspect of the constant barrage of violence is that Asian Americans from countries other than China, like Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, or Japan, are all being scapegoated, essentially lumping people together based on the color of their skin. This mirrors the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin when he was beaten to death by two men because they blamed Japanese Americans for stealing their jobs, even though Chin was Chinese American. It is additionally concerning when ignorance prevents people from including South and Southeast Asians in the conversation. The monolithic view of Asian Americans is offensive because it assumes that all Asians are from the same culture when in reality, there are significant differences that make each ethnicity unique.

“At the same time as being labeled ‘forever foreigners,we are ironically painted as ‘honorary whites...’”

Another issue that plagues this community is the model minority myth. At the same time as being labeled “forever foreigners,” we are ironically painted as “honorary whites,” which pits minorities against each other and pushes them to assimilate into the melting pot, essentially discouraging cultural differences. In addition, the myth has silenced victims of violence throughout history based on the false notion that we should keep our heads down and not “cause a fuss.” As a result, many do not want to speak up about their plight due to fear, and those brave enough to report racist behavior were dismissed because their cases were not identified as hate crimes. This must be dismantled; Asian Americans cannot stay silent because the only way that these horrific assaults will diminish is if we speak up.

Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim was given the opportunity to address legislators in a compelling House congressional hearing set specifically to end anti-Asian hate crimes.

“We are the fastest-growing racial demographic in the country. We are 23 million strong. We are united, and we are waking up,” said Kim.

Source by Olivia Wong

“This is an attack on America’s fundamental values: diversity, equity, and inclusion.” At the same protest, a man listens to Gordon Zhang, President of the Chinese American Association of Long Island, give a speech while holding up a sign, which reads “Not Your Scapegoat.”

On March 16, 2021, a shooter killed eight people, six of them Asian or Asian American women, at three different Asian-owned spas in Georgia. Authorities have not yet confirmed them as racially motivated hate crimes, which has angered many who believe it is clear that the man specifically targeted Asian Americans. Even more frustration rose to the surface when Georgia law enforcement officials dismissed the cold-blooded murderer as “having a bad day” instead of recognizing the extent of his actions and the lives he took.

“The media is at fault for objectifying, hyper-sexualizing, and stereotyping Asian women...”

The public was told that the killer’s “sex addiction” was the reason for his crimes, and yet another issue came into the picture: the fetishization of Asian women. The media, among other things, is at fault for objectifying, hyper-sexualizing, and stereotyping Asian women, which has led many to be at the receiving end of an inappropriate punchline, or worse. Men who claim to have “yellow fever,” or the idea that Asian women are attractive solely based on their race, assure women that it is a compliment. In reality, those with racial fetishes reduce victims down to their physical appearance because they usually do not have an interest in their actual backgrounds, identity, and culture. In addition, sexualizing traditional clothing from Asian culture like kimonos or qipaos is disrespectful and paints women as “exotic” or merely trophies to own.

Right now, all of these problems surrounding anti-Asian hate may seem new and recent to the world, but they have all been symptoms of a much larger cause for so long. Racism has become so normalized that education and awareness must be amplified to combat oppression. We must remember our history in America and we cannot let it be erased or silenced. Schools must work to include events in United States history that are brushed aside, such as the previously mentioned Vincent Chin murder, or the fact that the largest lynching in the country was of 18-20 Chinese Americans in Los Angeles in 1871. However, we must also celebrate our accomplishments and honor those who have paved the way for us, like Chinese American photographer Corky Lee and Japanese American political activist Yuri Kochiyama.

“Our hearts are broken for the families whose loved ones’ lives were robbed from them, and each new day of violence fans the flames of fear for our own families’ safety...”

The only way we can end the assaults on our people is to continue to foster conversations and come together in unity. It has been encouraging to see cities around the world rally against this violence, such as New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. Leaders such as journalist Vicky Nguyen, actor Simu Liu, actress Sandra Oh, actress Olivia Munn, Senator Andy Kim, writer Jenny Han, actor Jimmy Wong, and social media sites like NextShark have been at the forefront of this movement, fostering conversations and organizing protests.

New Hyde Park’s Asian American Community of Culture (AACC) is holding a virtual open discussion on Friday, March 26, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. about the effects on AAPI’s lives during these past few months. All students and educators are invited to verbalize any emotions that may be bottled up or listen to our unique experience as Asian Americans during this pandemic.

Our hearts are broken for the families whose loved ones’ lives were robbed from them, and each new day of violence fans the flames of fear for our own families’ safety. I am asking my peers and educators to actively stand in solidarity with the Asian American community because change will only happen when we all open our eyes to recognize the factors that lead up to unacceptable hate crimes, and raise our voices to denounce them.


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