Currently, in New York, it’s been Day 12 since self-quarantining. My fears about the economy are definitely becoming a reality, but I want to write about another thing that’s been bothering me regarding this whole situation: racism towards Asians.
Before the unprecedented lockdown of the city that never sleeps, news coming from “a disease from Wuhan” never really fazed any New Yorker. The average person here never considered the virus coming to New York. However, when COVID-19 hit New Rochelle outside NYC, the fear and paranoia started afflicting the average ignorant asshole.
I read many articles and saw a handful videos of a New Yorker verbally assaulting, punching, and even spraying Asians — and not just Chinese — on the subways and on the streets. Even if you look Asian, you’re a potential target to dumbfucks. Even most New Yorkers avoided Flushing and Chinatown in fear of contracting the virus — despite the fact that, at the time, no Asian-American in NYC was confirmed with the virus. Ignorance and prejudice, it seems, had inflicted one of the most socially and culturally progressive cities in America.
As an Asian-American, I had an encounter with such (albeit mild) racism.
I remember walking to the subway to work from my apartment, just as news of COVID-19 had reached the US. Minding my own business, I noticed a guy — your typical hipster millennial — walking towards me. A few feet before we crossed paths, he decides to put his shirt over his mouth and nose. I took a shower and I wasn’t smoking, so what was the problem? Before he approached, I noticed him turn the corner from a busy Franklin Avenue (pedestrians all just walking to the subway), and he didn’t do that to anybody who was white or black.
I stared him down hard as we passed, his nose still shielded by his shirt, and he looked away.
I was talking to my friend Alex about this long before the lockdown, and she’s also Asian. Alex is currently pregnant, so her immune system is down and she had developed a scratchy throat. When she went to work, she was afraid to even let out a little cough on the subway for fear that people would accuse her of having COVID-19. She kept in her purse a bag of cough drops, just in case — just to avoid the ignorant stares or being confronted.
I can’t stand the ignorance of people — and it doesn’t help when our president calls it “the China virus.” I really expected so much more from my fellow New Yorkers, to be better educated and well-informed and more open-minded. Sure, not everyone in this city is the fuckface who shields his face around Asians or sprays a guy on the subway or punches an Asian woman on a busy street — but they sadly still exist here.
The state of this world and society as whole depresses the hell out of me, but when there’s pockets of hate and ignorance in a city I feel generally safe in, it makes me even more bummed out.