Student Voice: Racism against Asian Americans in the Wake of COVID-19

Many Asian American students are experiencing discrimination and assaults since the outbreak of COVID-19. This high school student is sharing her experience.

By Katrina Chan

Hi, I’m Katrina. I’m a high school sophomore in the Bay Area. I am blessed to live in a peaceful and close-knit community. But for the first time, I am facing an uncertain world. As cliché as it sounds, I have been blessed with a satisfying life. The most I used to worry about were my grades and social life. But COVID-19, and the stigma it brought to the Asian and Asian-American community, has changed my world outlook.

When the news announced that the virus came from China, I didn’t think much about it. When I heard that the pandemic was caused by the consumption of an exotic animal, I just thought it was another joke made in bad taste and assumed that it would pass as quickly as it appeared. I didn’t think that it would affect me or my life. However, in the weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak in China, I’ve heard my peers whisper phrases like “eating dogs” and chat about whose fault it was for the spread of the virus. These moments weren’t anything that particularly caught my attention, but I still couldn’t help but replay them in my mind.

On social media, I’ve always seen stereotypical jokes about Asians and how they can’t drive, are only good at doing people’s nails, and eat dogs. But lately, on the news and on social media, I’ve seen a person spray a Chinese man with Febreze, young people beat up an Asian student, and local Asian businesses get vandalized with racist slurs or close down from a loss of customers. To see a rise in Asian and Asian-American discrimination pains my heart. For someone who identifies with the Asian and Asian-American community, it feels like my home is being attacked even though these comments and actions weren’t directed at me or my family. I learned that in times of fear and anxiety, my identity and life are not as safe as I once thought it was.

In a community like mine, protection often means being blind to what is happening in the world. Outside my community, people are discriminating against Asians due to fear of COVID-19, and I find it disgusting. There are a lot of controversies on where the virus originated, but no matter where it emerged, nobody should be persecuted for it. I am truly blessed that my high school is diverse and does not accept prejudice, but I know that other schools and communities are not so lucky.

Hearing about students, many of whom are close to my age, are getting beat up for no reason, sinks my heart and fills me with fear, humiliation, anger, and sadness. I fear for the safety of the Asian community, my community, and my family, and am humiliated by the fact that I haven’t spoken out about these injustices. I feel anger toward those who think it is okay to treat people as less than human and overwhelming sadness for the way society has reacted to this pandemic.

But there’s hope, I’m so glad that there are people out in the world that care. Many of my friends and classmates have been supportive of me and the Asian community throughout this time. They order food from Asian restaurants and promote Asian restaurants on Instagram. I know that this is a stressful and scary time. People are afraid, and that is understandable. But know that everyone is facing similar challenges, and you aren’t alone during this time. We are all human. Let us fight the virus together and not blame each other. To the Asian community and to those who have been treated unfairly: It’s dispiriting to be dehumanized with actions and slurs, but please do not give up hope. Remind yourself, that while the world is unfair, there are a lot of people who disagree with the bigotry aimed at the Asian communities and are willing to help. I promise you that this all will come to pass.

Do you want to share your experience during unexpected school closures, too? Send an email to [email protected]

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