What Did I Do During my Covid Summer?

I stayed at home and fed my mind, and began to lose hope for the human race. I read books. I read books about pandemics, written in the early 1900’s. And I learned that in this time of pandemic nothing has changed. Man chooses not to believe in or see the pandemic until it is right in front of them, then becomes self absorbed, caring only for themselves and their own well being, not the welfare of their neighbor. And the virus always spreads before modern medicine can intervene, or the world ends.

I also read a lot of books about racism. Books from African-American perspectives, from Asian-American perspectives, and even a book from White-American’s perspective.

When this pandemic broke out across our nation, Asian-Americans were faced with an astronomical increase in racism against them. Asians of any nationality were automatically assumed to be Chinese and being blamed for the Corona Virus reaching America. The racism towards Asian-Americans did not stop just at threats, it also became extremely violent. One man stabbed an entire Asian-American family. Children in schools were being physically assaulted, one child, beaten so badly, was rushed to the emergency room. One elderly woman was knocked down by a group of men and set on fire. Gun shop owners noted a drastic increase in gun sales to Asian-Americans.

And it is not the first time American fear has given rise to extreme racism towards a specific racial group. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, American-Muslims faced something similar. But these are examples of American extreme racism that not a lot of Americans are even aware is happening.

Racism is our epidemic and I don’t honestly think it is something that will be cured. Our nation is young, but it was built on white superiority. It is in the bones of our country. People of colour are labeled “disadvantaged” simply for the colour of their skin, despite education and upbringing. Regardless of a white person’s education and upbringing. America’s structure and systems are built to keep white advantage. You drive down a street with nice houses and manicured lawns, and you automatically assume that it is a neighborhood filled with white families. You drive down a street that is poorly kept with small houses, and who do you assume lives there? Disadvantaged people. These are the images we have been raised to conjure in our heads, it is an automatic, unconscious response. America keeps people of colour down.

I have also been reading a little about the ’92 L.A. Riots. The timing felt appropriate after the death of George Floyd earlier this year, and the riots that ensued after. The L.A. Riots began on April 29th of ’92 after the four police officers who used excessive force and beat Rodney King while arresting him, were all acquitted. During the riots, much of the violence and destruction was aimed towards L.A. Koreatown and the Koreans living there. During this time many Koreans went out and bought guns. Although it was a gun that probably brought about a majority of the animosity African-Americans felt towards the Koreans, when a Korean shop owner shot and killed a young African-American girl trying to buy some orange juice. She was let off with an unjustly light sentence.

27 years prior, in 1965 the Watts Rebellion occurred after the arrest of Marquette Frye, an African-American man, escalated into a fight. The outrage over the police brutality in arresting an African-American incited a six day riot in L.A.

28 years after the L.A. Riots, the death of George Floyd by the police incited more rioting. Nearly 30 years between each incident and nothing has changed.

More current, I just read that the police officer responsible for the death of George Floyd posted bail and is now walking free until his trial, set for March of next year.

Though I know that extreme racism against African-Americans has always been going on, it has not been something I have personally seen much of. I honestly had no idea that “I can’t breathe” was a slogan used by the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of Eric Garner by police in 2014. Since then there have been other African-Americans to plead with police officers, “I can’t breathe,” while being forcibly restrained, and in turn died.

This year has been particularly difficult for America. While I had tried to convince myself that we have always been progressing towards a better, stronger country, this year in particular, of the last four, has proved to me that we haven’t. I admit that when Covid landed in our country, I was one of the ignorant ones who believed we would bust it within months. Four years ago, when Trump ran for president, I was one of the ignorant ones who believed our country couldn’t be stupid enough to actually elect him. I have always placed my misguided faith in this country and its people.

And now here we are again.

Honestly, KEEP America Great? Are you kidding me? Is this really the America he set out to make? The only thing I can say is that at least in the past four years we haven’t found ourselves in the middle of World War III. But instead, we are at war with ourselves. Our nation is fractured.
This year we have all been faced with this pandemic, this indiscriminate virus that will attack anybody. And yet, the cases of infection keep rising. Why do you think that is?

So, what did I do this Covid Summer? I stayed home and fed my mind.

I met a girl today. Another Asian adoptee. I caught her crying at one point because someone had assumed she was Japanese, and if not Japanese, she had to be Chinese. She is neither. While crying, she suddenly yelled, “Why does it matter what race I am?!” And in that moment, I knew exactly how she felt. I have been feeling it alot lately. And while I find my heart grow angry and break whenever someone tells me to “get over it,” I also realize people being racially ignorant towards me is never going to go away. After reading White Fragility, I realize just how White this country is. It is in the very BONES of this country. It is in the way our systems are set up. This country was built on White Superiority. Simultaneously, I am reading The Primal Wound, a book about the trauma of adoption. The idea that no matter what, an adopted child will suffer trauma from it, whether small or large. Whatever your situation, a child has spent 9 months growing in their mother and in essence, forming a very unique bond. Good or bad, early or late, being taken away from the woman who gave birth to you is a trauma. And it can develop into alot of other issues if not treated carefully.
I guess I felt alot of emotions today. I felt angry with this girl. I felt sad. I felt sympathy. And I felt protective.
I suppose it nurtures my desire to move on with my education and career. I want to help people exactly like this. I want them to know that in this country that is White, and cold, and ridiculously blind to Asians, that they are not alone.

I had a record breaking 3 racist comments towards me within 24 hours. All different people. One patient refusing my care until I proved to him I could speak fluent English. And I understand this is a burden I must bear for being born Asian. But it is not something I can help, I didn’t ask for my genes to be this way, and it is not something I can do anything to change. I can’t lose weight, or put on weight, or dye my hair, or cut my hair in order to change how people will see me.

But the most disheartening thing, is when people tell me to “get over it.” I joke a lot about when people are racist towards me, and someone once pointed out to me that that is another burden I am putting on myself. I can’t recall the exact term used for it, but I have conditioned myself, as an Asian-American, to make light of my pain to make other people more comfortable with it.

What the fuck is that all about?

My heart hurts extra because I go to my friends and colleagues, 90% of which are White American, and some of them actually tell me to, look who I am dealing with, why am I surprised? Why am I surprised? Because I am dealing with Americans, and because I am dark skinned and they are white skinned and they have no idea what it feels like to have someone automatically just see that I am different. Before even asking me what my name is, or bother to let me say, Good Morning. They have never experienced someone stop and actually walk the other direction after seeing them.

And this is what it means when someone says, someone of colour must work twice, three times as hard to be an American.

And I hate to bring the added adopted factor into this, but they also have no idea what it is like to feel like an outsider it America, and have the added burden of knowing that even though I am an American citizen and only know what it is to be an American, were I ever to “go back to where I came from,” because I am an American, I would be just as much an outsider in Korea. It will not make sense to an American, but Koreans would see it on me. The way I dress, the way I hold myself, the way I gesture. Before even asking what my name is, or allow me to say, Good Morning. So where am I supposed to feel like I belong?

I shouldn’t have to feel like an outsider in my own country. I am not saying that I need people to get up in arms when someone exhibits racism towards me. I am not saying that people need to paint their skin and walk around in my shoes to fully understand my plight. But I shouldn’t have to deal with anyone telling me to, “get past the racist comments.”

What it’s like to be Asian…

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As an Asian-American who has lived nearly her whole life in America, I never really felt the negativity of racism. I was fortunate to grow up with a family who were very open about my being adopted, my culture, and being open to other cultures period. It wasn’t until 2016 that I really began to experience a lot of hostile racism. By this time I was 30 years old and knew some about history and what America was built on and it struck me as even more hurtful. America, the melting pot that used to call itself “The Land of Opportunity,” a country that people from varying other countries still look to as an opportunity for a better life. 

At the beginning of this year, Covid–19 really began to come to our public eye for its growing cases in China. It’s extreme contractability and death rate creating fear. By mid March, cases of the virus were confirmed in America, as well as many other countries. America went into full Pandemic mode, citizens were panic shopping, and many states issued a stay-at-home order. 

The virus was senselessly called the “Chinese Virus,” and the level of racism and anger against anyone who even looks Chinese grew exponentially. To the simple point of walking the other way when they might pass someone of Asian decent, to the extreme level of chasing and beating up someone of Asian decent. Regardless of their actual race, ethnicity, heritage.

As a Korean born American, I never thought I’d be so scared of being Asian as after Trump was elected president. Today, during this national pandemic, I am even more fearful to be Asian. 

Here is an article written in USA Today on the growing racial problem during this pandemic. What It’s Like to be Asian During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The most heart breaking thing I had ever heard was from an Black French woman, Surya Bonaly. An Olympic level figure skater who could never seem to get first place, no matter how much training and finessing she did. In an interview she was asked if she thought that in any way it was because she is black. She said no, it was just that, “when you’re black, you know. Everybody knows that you have to do better than anybody else who’s white.”

There have been times in my life lately when I have felt the same sentiment. In my work place, 1 of 3 non-white employees on my shift. I have felt like I have had to face a lot more negative criticism than my peers, that I have had to work twice as hard. 

And even though most of the time, I don’t even think most people even consciously think about it. That a negative view of Asian-Americans is so deeply ingrained. People still blame MSG in Chinese food for feelings of dizziness and headaches. An idea brought about in 1969, despite no scientific proof of the correlation between MSG and the symptoms of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”

Here is an article written earlier this year about “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” MSG in Chinese Restaurants isn’t Unhealthy…

Racism has always been a part of Asian-American history. But American’s forget that it was Asian immigrants who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, which physically brought the country together. American’s forget that it is through Asian companies that we do our everyday communication with others, everyday internet work, stream televison programs… Sony, LG, Samsung, HTC… All companies from Asia. 

As an Asian-American who has lived nearly my whole life proud of my Asian heritage, I have never felt more fear and shame of this country I call home.

My American Dream

I’m not opposed to people who post political things. And I’m not opposed to people who voted for Trump. I am a strong believer in everyone having their own opinions and I’m not going to tell you they’re right or wrong. But I don’t want to see your open Trump support on my facebook feed. I don’t want to see comments like, “Build the Wall!” because you don’t understand what that phrase really means.
95% of my facebook friends are White Americans. 95% of my facebook friends have absolutely no idea what it is like to be descriminated against. They have no idea what its like to wake up every morning and not know what someone is going to say to you today. Half the time I laugh it off, because whats the point in making a big deal? But I guess I’m finally making a big deal, and I’ve been thinking about this for a while now.
Out of like 30 dayshift staff on my unit, there are 3 who aren’t White Americans, including me.
Whenever I work with the man, patients are constantly commenting on how we would be a cute couple. When I work with the woman, patients are constantly asking if she is my mother, we look so much alike. We aren’t even from the same countries. I laugh it off, because working in my unit begs a strong allowance for stupidity. But 90% of my coworkers won’t ever have to experience that.
The majority of the people in my life will never understand what it’s like to wake up and immediately have people treat you differently because you’re skin isn’t white. To have people offhandedly tell you that your English is really good. To have someone start a sentence off with, “I’m not trying to sound racist, but…” To have someone actually recognize that you are Korean and then tell you that they’re the worst race ever. To have someone spit the word “Gook” at you in the middle of a crowded room. To ask you if the Sweet and Sour Chicken they had for lunch is just as shitty where you come from too. “Where you come from.” The m
ajority of my friends will never have the phrase flung at them with such distain. I met a man recently. He was a law clerk in Forida, but packed up and moved here. He wanted to open a restaurant, so he did. A small hole in the wall with one table. He was telling us how just the day before a man was walking down the street and saw him. The man yelled at him to pack his things and go back to where he came from.
America used to be a country that the rest of the world looked at as a land of Hope and Opportunity. It promised people the chance at a better future. And in essence, I, myself, came to America for the chance of a better future. For Hope and Opportunity.
What people don’t realize is, even if I went back to Korea, I would never be fully assimilated and treated as a Korean, despite being born there. For 3 decades I have been an American, and I will always be an American. But I clearly will never be fully treated as an American. So where are people like me supposed to feel at home, if even a country built on immigration and the American Dream, can’t fully accept us? I guess all men AREN’T created equal, with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t THAT what “Make America Great Again,” should REALLY be about?