The emergence of COVID-19 in recent months has led to people canceling their vacations, hand sanitizer shortages, toilet paper stockpiling, as well as a rise of xenophobia and racism towards anyone that looks remotely Asian. It is normal to be fearful of this new virus; however, the coronavirus isn’t an excuse for you to be a racist and xenophobic douche canoe.
For years, it has been debated whether Asian people can be the victims of racism. With the numerous recent attacks on Asian people living their lives, it has definitely been proven that Asians can be the victims of racism. As an ambiguously Asian person, Vietnamese to be precise, I can confirm that Asians do face racism! What a surprise?! If there’s a rise in racism, then a rise in xenophobia is almost certain to follow, and this has proven to be true. People of Asiatic descent have been told to go back to their country. To me, my “country” is the United States of America, so I suppose I must return there then, to my hometown of Orlando, Florida (also the home of Walt Disney World).
Additionally, Buddhist temples have been desecrated and vandalized. There has been some uproar, mostly within Asian communities, but little media coverage has been spared to it, and none of our politicians have addressed it either. If this sort of vandalism occurred to literally any other place of worship, the media and entire communities would be in a state of uproar. Within less than a day, public figures would be denouncing these “acts of hate”, which “have no place here”. Local Buddhists and I will never see justice, as no one will listen to us.
Temples are usually run out of houses that were converted into places of worship after years of fundraising. Unlike the Catholic church, most Buddhist temples do not have many funds and are run on donations. Volunteers like my elderly Vietnam War refugee grandparents usually care for the temples, and they take pride in the handiwork that keeps a part of their culture alive. The temples that have been touched by this hate are mostly Vietnamese; though bordering China, Vietnam is still in an entirely different country. All Asians look the same to the vandals, so it doesn’t matter to them, as long as they target anyone with slanted eyes like mine.
In late January, when news about the virus started to gain traction, my uncle passed away. Before his death, he had health issues that were unrelated to COVID-19, and he had not returned to Asia within recent months. When a person dies, an autopsy is done to confirm to cause of death; however, with my uncle’s passing, the government held his body for further testing. Despite our reassuring that there was no correlation between him and the novel coronavirus, officials insisted on taking his body. In my family, we all know why the government did so: he is visibly Asian, and so are we all. We’re Vietnamese, but in the eyes of the law, all Asians look, and thus are, the same. Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean – they all melt into one entity to them.
Here’s a little fun fact for you all: In Canada and the rest of the Western hemisphere, people tend to wear surgical masks when they are sick to prevent the spread of whatever ailment they have. On the other hand, in the continent of Asia, people tend to wear surgical masks as a PREVENTIVE MEASURE. In other words, Asian people wear masks to avoid getting whatever is going around AND not because they are sick. It is also commonplace to wear such masks in Asia due to the smoggy and bad air quality, while we take fresher air quality for granted.
Overnight, we have gone from model minority to yellow peril: both of which are bad. My mom and I now are afraid to cough or to sneeze in public spaces. I am now more cautious than I normally am about how I act, even when it comes to the common sneeze. We can’t even wear masks to be “safe” like the rest of you out of fear of being jumped or harassed. So, just remember non-Asians, THE CORONAVIRUS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR YOU TO BE A BIGOT.
By Background Asian