Content warning: Racial violence
Recently, for the first time in my life, I was scared of going to the grocery store.
It’s hard to put into words how I’ve been feeling lately. But, it needs to be said: These hate crimes need to stop.
Two children, ages two and six, stabbed alongside their father. A man slashed across the face on the subway in New York City. An 84-year-old man shoved to death. A grandmother assaulted while walking on the streets holding red envelopes for the cherished Lunar New Year.
And the list doesn’t end there.
So for the first time in my life, I felt a level of hurt deep inside me; it was to an extent I had never experienced before. The kind of hurt that envelopes your stomach like a black hole, sucking in everything you have until there’s nothing left but your damaged soul. Not a sting like scraping your knee on the sidewalk, but one that makes you physically feel your heart ache.
In one of my previous pieces, I mentioned how the Model Minority Myth has led to racist jokes towards Asian Americans, but it has also perpetuated an increase in these aforementioned hate crimes. This MMM creates a single identity for how Asian Americans “should” act and, consequently, represents East Asian communities as a singular set of features in terms of how they look. With the Chinese community being blamed for COVID-19 due to harmful rhetoric used by people in power, this false, single identity results in hate crimes towards East and even Southeast Asian communities.
So for the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable as an Asian American. I never really took to heart the snide and stereotypical remarks made towards me for being Asian. So as I scrolled through NextShark’s coverage of the many hate crimes happening, my heart absorbed all of them, bundling them up into a seed and planting them straight in its center. It feels like the seed is trying to break out of the barrier that is my heart, pushing and poking, but it cannot. It’s too important for me to let it go right now.
I never thought the day would come when I’d go out and possibly have to worry about having these attacks happen to me, my parents or my grandma. Even worse, I felt, and sometimes still feel, sort of bad for feeling this way. I wonder if I’m just overreacting and that’s why I cry when seeing my community hurt while it feels like no one is noticing. I think to myself that maybe it’s not as bad as it seems, because it seems like there are even people in my community who don’t really care that this is happening. These occurrences are not something I’m used to seeing, nor are they something I want to be used to.
The other day, I heard my mom tell my sister to be careful when she walks through campus for the sole reason that someone, out of spite and with a racist mindset, will do something to her. My sister tells her that it’s okay, nothing will happen. But how can we be so sure? How can we be sure that our safety is promised when the safety of those hurt has been breached — even with instances of death? Death of walking outside without fear, death of grandfathers and death of a young child’s happiness because they’ve been hurt beyond what is imaginable at a ripe age, during which one should receive nothing but love from the world.
So maybe I wasn’t overthinking, overreacting or being overly sensitive.
For the first time in my life, I was scared of going to the grocery store. I was scared that someone would say something to me or my dad, and I wouldn’t know how to react.
But that shouldn’t become the narrative that follows the lives of Asian Americans. As the number of crimes continues to increase, it becomes increasingly vital that members of society take action to stop them. Whether that be donating to groups raising money to protect Asian elders, using our social media platforms to bring awareness or having dialogue among other communities, this spread of information has to start from somewhere. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, significant change will happen. It’s not the first time in Asian American history where we’ve been targeted, but hopefully, this will be the beginning of the last.
To learn more on how to help, I urge you all to visit https://stopaapihate.org/.
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