Just as my family finished planning our trip to Spain, the coronavirus outbreak hit the news.
Initially, I didn’t think much of it.
A few weeks later, my dad called to say, “We have to change our plans because Spain might not be safe.” But he wasn’t talking about the virus, he was referring to the growing discrimination against Asians around Spain and Italy.
With reports such as banning Asians from restaurants, and hate crimes like physical assault and violence, my family didn’t feel safe. As a Taiwanese-American, it was hard to hear that we were not welcome in a country because of our appearance. It was even harder to hear that these hate crimes began to escalate in America as well.
The growing stigma against Chinese people in America has affected the Asian American community as a whole because we’ve all been lumped together. My own friends and family are afraid of going to grocery stores or bringing their children out because the threat of assault has left them in fear.
So, not only were we facing prejudice and discrimination, but we also didn’t feel safe in the country we call home.
It’s sad to say that all my life I’ve been pretty oblivious to any type of discrimination thrown my way, but after COVID-19, these cases were getting harder and harder to ignore.
The day after Trump called coronavirus the “Chinese Virus,” I was on a plane from San Francisco to New York.
Wearing a mask and minding my own business, I made my way down the plane toward my seat. After stowing away my carry-on, I sat down and made eye contact with the man seated next to me — immediately, he looked away.
Five minutes later, a flight attendant came over and asked how she could assist him. He requested to switch to another seat without an explanation. I’m usually not one to make assumptions, yet I couldn’t help but think it was because I looked Chinese.
I may have just been overly sensitive, but I still felt unsettled. It was a discomfort that I haven’t really experienced. I’ve developed almost a heightened awareness when it comes to racism aimed at me or those in my community.
It’s disheartening to think that in times of uncertainty and fear, we also felt threatened or unsafe because of what we look like.
On the brighter side, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the Asian-American community — important issues I’ve been ignorant about my whole life. I’ve received more support and concern from friends and family than I would’ve ever expected, and that’s brought us even closer.
Whether it’s sewing masks to donate to hospitals or sending extra groceries to family and friends, I’ve learned to reciprocate that support and appreciate others as well. Times of crisis usually bring people together, so it’s discouraging to see people bringing others down. And it is easier to place blame in uncertain situations, but I think it’s important to continue supporting one another as individuals and as communities because we’re all experiencing the same panic and fear caused by coronavirus.
So, stay safe and help one another — because we all need some support.
Evelyn Siao is an associate lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]