Racism Against Asian-Americans is Nothing New

Jae Yeon Lee, Guest Writer

I am not new to the racism and discrimination against Asian Americans that has originated from the coronavirus.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea. My family immigrated to the United States in 2008, making me a first-generation immigrant. I enrolled in the American public school system and had perfect grades, which made me the so-called “model minority.”

I have experienced racism ever since I moved to America, the “land of the free.”

In elementary school, I was made fun of for bringing traditional Korean food for lunch. This continued in middle school, where I was ridiculed for having slits for eyes. I distinctly remember the teachers, the ones that are responsible for our well-being and education, saying nothing as I was humiliated.

I’ve come to realize that racism towards Asian Americans has been integrated into our society and normalized, to the point where many people would find nothing wrong with saying “Get your ‘Kung Flu’ away from me.”

I’ve dealt with this racism for my whole life in a calm manner as I’m not one to pick fights. More than half the time, the racism I’ve experienced is in the form of informal jokes. However, due to the unfortunate fact that the pandemic originated in China, prejudice towards Asian Americans has immensely spiked.

Even our highest politicians are responsible for the rise of racial attacks against Asian Americans. Human Rights Watch found that Asian Americans have become targets of attacks in the media due to politicians.

Our president, Donald Trump, calls COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus” and our Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, uses the term “Wuhan virus.” Research has shown that language like this increases other hate speech against Asian Americans.

Since then, Asian Americans have been verbally and physically abused.

In many instances, Asian Americans have been punched in the face for no reason other than the offender’s suspicion that the victim has or is spreading the coronavirus.

Due to the Asian culture that praises silence when it comes to social issues, many of the racial attacks have not been reported. A few of them have, including when a group of teenagers attacked an Asian citizen’s store, two women were kicked and beat to the ground as their attackers screamed slurs at them, an Asian American family was stabbed while grocery shopping, an Asian man beaten so hard that he went into a coma, and so on.

Asian Americans were targeted and racially attacked for an act that they did not commit. But racist people in America believe that my community is responsible for bringing the virus and infecting others. They believe that all Asian Americans were born in Wuhan, China and immigrated to the United States of America in December of 2019.

As funny as it may sound, some racists actually believe that. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans have been subject to more slurs and offensive jokes than any other race or ethnic group since the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a national survey by Pew, 31 percent of Asian Americans adults say they endured racist comments, compared to 21 percent of Blacks, 15 percent of Hispanics and 8 percent of whites. 26 percent of Asian Americans fear that someone might threaten or physically attack them,  which is far more than the shares of white and Hispanics.

Is it possible to end the systematic racism and prevent another outbreak of racial attacks against the Asian American community? We may never know.

Racism has been present since the origins of our civilization. It is a concept that has been integrated so deeply into our society that it would seem impossible to uproot. But there is still hope. Despite the coronavirus, we must come together to rally against racism so that we could maybe end this endless discrimination in the land of the free.

 

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