A Costly Miscalcu(asian)
March 25, 2021
When you pick a rose, you avoid the thorns. You solely focus on the red velvety petals, its attractiveness, its fragrance–all the beauty it has to offer–but not those sharp, ugly thorns that could cause your fingers to bleed and scar. Nevertheless, you pick the rose and you dull the thorns. Without the thorns, this rose is now the standard you judge every other flower by: it’s pick and choose, to see the rose with the thorns or without.
In America, the Asian American community is this rose– the model minority, the thornless rose. Too often I see, I read, I hear the same narrative of the xenophobia COVID-19 has exacerbated. It’s not a new story, just a new addition to the cycle.
In WW2, we had an Asian enemy. In the Korean War, an Asian enemy. Vietnam War, Asian enemy. And now, with COVID-19, the blame for the spread of the virus is not on those who reject mask-wearing and social distancing.
It’s instead pitted on one community. “China virus.” “Kungflu.” This xenophobic puke spewed from politicians’ mouths has been so easily devoured and accepted.
The effects of COVID-19 stretch beyond the realm of a public health crisis; it’s now a racial issue. Yes, a racial issue. Race structures what we experience, what we endure, and whether we start behind or at the starting line.
Regardless of if this is your miscalculation or not, it doesn’t change the violence endured by the Asian community. On Jul. 24, a Chinese woman is slapped and then set on fire. On Feb. 4, an elderly Thai immigrant dies after being shoved to the ground. On Feb. 18, a Filipino-American is slashed in the face with a box cutter. It may be a different victim, a different face each time, but it’s the same motive–hate against Asians. Regardless of the level of exhaustion you feel from the never-ending, relentless fight for racial justice, listen right here, right now.
According to a report from the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action, “More than 2,100 anti-Asian American hate incidents related to COVID-19 were reported across the country over a three-month time span between March and June.”
2,100 is more than a number, more than just a statistic. It’s a trend in crimes against the innocent Asian lives in our country. It’s not just a case in Georgia, in New York or LA, it’s right here in Stoughton–it’s been here all along. It’s in that moment your classmate pulls back their eyes to mock an Asian person, in the mispronunciation of a name with an accessorized giggle tied to the end of it, it’s the assumption that because you look foreign, you are foreign.
Since when is America defined by one ethnicity? What happened to the melting pot?
No number, no statistic can capture the fear slowly paralyzing you as you hear pleas of the fallen elderly slashed down in front of their homes, or induce the feeling of spit landing in your hair when you walk down the street.
It’s never been about the numbers–it’s about this community who has brought you your comforting ramen noodles, your favorite boba, your uplifting fortune cookies, and perfect pedicures. It’s never been about the numbers, it’s about the reach of xenophobia that controls how you treat the Asian community. There is no doubt the Asian community stands as beautiful as a rose. As a society, it’s time to allow our Asian community to take up space. Asian lives are as valuable as Asian culture. It’s time to stop and smell the roses–thorns and all.