Dear Asian Youth,
If the pandemic could end right now, what would you want from 2020?
Here are some of the answers I received after asking my friends the same question:
"I want a chance to play spring sports this year."
"I want to go to that concert I've been waiting so long for."
"I want to have the chance to get that summer body for the beach."
"I want to have my senior prom and graduation with my friends."
The list goes on and on, and I've never related to anything more. I've already lost the hope of having a huge 18th birthday celebration in June; I won't be able to see my senior friends for the last time; I haven't had bubble tea for two months! Needless to say, this year has changed our habits, our plans, our lives.
But the fact remains: two pandemics are ravaging the world right now, and one has plagued us for centuries.
The pandemic that never left us is xenophobia.
We've all heard of Asians selling and eating infected bats or snakes, both raw and cooked; we’ve all seen the horrifying news circulating on social media.
Headlines ruptured from various social media platforms: Elderly Chinese Man Collecting Cans in S.F. Assaulted by Group in Heartbreaking Viral Video, Korean Student Punched in the Face in NYC for Not Wearing a Face Mask, Teen Who Spat On, Threatened Asian Women With Knife for “Bringing Corona” to Australia is Arrested. The list never ends, and bullying and abusive language towards Asians have increased over 900% since COVID19 ransacked the word. However, these racist and seemingly intolerable actions are being justified and overlooked.
How much more blatant racism do we have to endure before we start speaking up for ourselves? Everything is ignored until it's your grandpa who gets assaulted, your friend who gets attacked at school, or your mother who gets threatened and spat on while getting groceries.
Allow yourself to be scared, but also allow yourself to be angry.
We are repeating history.
An official commission report dated back to 1884 concluded that “the Chinese are the filthiest and most disgusting, overcrowded hotbeds of disease and vice, disseminating fever and polluting the air all around.” The report also stated that syphilis, leprosy, and smallpox came from Asian communities. Over the next couple of decades, any and all recurring epidemics were miraculously blamed on the Asians -just as they are today.
In example, president Trump’s recent choice in language has enraged the Asian community. He referred to COVID19 as the “Chinese virus”, and subsequently revived and provoked long-standing anti-immigrant narratives. In consequence with his rhetoric, we are seen as the physical embodiment of the virus. In the eyes of many, we are the disease itself.
You can help.
Hate speech and violent acts will not halt this pandemic. It will only deepen disunity in an already divided nation and undermine the collaborative effort necessary to defeat this virus.
We must directly address issues of discrimination by dispelling negative attitudes and celebrating our nation’s diversity. It shouldn't be one race versus another race;it should be our humanity versus the virus.
If you see hate, speak out. Be bold. People will support you. Stand by what you think is right. Be the person you will be proud of.
If your family or friends are going through a hard time, be supportive. Offer to cook the meals, clean the house, and buy the groceries. Call your friends to remind them that you love them. Words mean more than you can imagine. If hateful words can hurt you, then kind words can cure you.
If you are in a position to do more for your community, get involved. Volunteer for non-profit organizations. Help is accepted everywhere. Campaign for donations. Buy masks for frontline workers. There's so much you can do.
So to answer my question, here is what I want from 2020:
I want the underrepresented to be encouraged to speak up for themselves.
I want to take our fear and transform it into words.
I want to be able to safely say, "I am Asian, I look Asian, and I am proud to be Asian."
I want 2020 to be the end of the pandemic known as xenophobia.
Now, it’s your turn: if this pandemic could end right now, what would YOU want from 2020?
- Emily Xu