A Reflection on Anti-Asian Hate
Minneapolis College Campus Community,
Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen an uptick in violent crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community. These violent acts and anti-Asian rhetoric have had a significant impact on the mental and physical well-being of members within AAPI communities.
Usually, I would write an open letter sharing my thoughts and views with you all. However, today, I will be sharing a reflection piece from a member of our Minneapolis College community instead. The piece shares the lived experience of what it has been like to be Asian in the midst of a global pandemic. As we continue our journey of becoming an anti-racist institution, it is important that we take time to acknowledge the everyday realities of our colleagues. I encourage you to take a moment to read and reflect.
Trumanue Lindsey, Jr.
Vice President of Equity and Inclusion
This is Nothing New
Being a visibly Asian person in pandemic America
Dear Cousins, here goes.
I’m a visibly Asian person in the American Midwest. Even with half my face covered by a mask, you can tell. The shape of my eyes do not betray the truth of my physiology. Nor would I want them to.
With anti-Russian sentiment turning into xenophobia, racialized persons become especially aware. It can be seen from miles away, you don’t need Spidey-sense. The hate is centuries old; only the dead and hurt are new. Legacies of the Cold War. Legacies—no, foundations upon which this country was built; on the backs of stolen Indigenous lands and broken treaties, African slaves, Chinese railroad workers, Mexican agricultural workers. Stolen children, murdered women, incarcerated folx ‘sold’ into the prison industrial complex or shot, or both. And many more lives interned, exploited, segregated, erased; histories written by ‘the victors’, rinse and repeat. Black Lives Matter AND we need to act like it.
All this is known but quickly forgotten in the drudge and grind of the Everyday. Until our Everyday is interrupted. Even the Pandemic Everyday.
For AAPI, the more recent Everyday includes encountering news reports of increased racialized hate. Anything from harassment, to being murdered in the street by someone with a beef with the way you look, the way you speak (English! This is Am’rika!), for having community, for having ancestors, for existing 10 feet away. Grievous offences. How dare I.
Put simply, there were 6273 hate-motivated incidents against AAPI reported to Stop AAPI Hate in 2021 alone1. Many were attacked because it was perceived that the spread of COVID was their fault. Or, depending on the decade, the spread of Communism was your fault. Or Socialism. Or economic decline, intense job competition, and global supply chain disruptions, take your pick. Or as I might imagine now, the Chinese government’s cooperative trade with Russia during this war with Ukraine. Better keep my head down, bootstraps yanked up, mouth shut. We don’t talk about Bruno.
Yup, my bad. I should go back to my country and have a Heart to Heart™ with my bro, Uncle Jingping. Many people I meet in Minnesota ask me where I’m from, and also sometimes, No, where are you really from? No, where are your parents from? Um, and where are your grandparents from? Such a keen interest. I’m glad that this traced historical lineage provides sufficient context for us to be waiting for the bus that’s ten minutes late, or for me to demonstrate how to use the staple function on a copier. If I say, “Wuhan” at any point, I wonder how fast they’d run…
Okay, really. Why will I continue to wear a face mask, aside from the pandemic not being effectively dealt with by so many G7 countries including this one?
This mask is both shield and safety blanket, hard and soft. It is a melt-blown, multi-ply, virus-trapping mother—in AND out, it gives opportunity for life. A gentle nod, a gift from science, a way to be together.
I wear a mask because I don’t want to be a target of some unhinged person’s wrath while they were having a bad day. Because I know victims of AAPI hate, and because I’ve been one. Because people died at the long, outstretched hands of I need someone to blame for Everything because I feel helpless and hopeless and wronged, or by the 125+ punches and stomps that landed on a New York woman’s Asian body on March 11 of 2022.
Scapegoats. My sister, who is harassed for being visibly Asian with or without her ER scrubs. My mother, for all her life as an immigrant and the daughter of refugees. Vincent Chin on June 19, 1982. Edina teenagers watching their peers mixing and matching racist ideologies for the ‘Gram mere weeks ago2.
I don’t need to provide an additional invitation to get spat at or pummeled. I simply exist as the product of my ancestors’ survival, and that is reason enough for some people. How dare I.
This is a truth for many marginalized persons. I see you. And there are a great many marginalized persons still working in frontline positions, facing people who want to have conversations in person without a mask. Student or colleague. And how dare I keep my household from getting infected by continuing to wear a mask. More than this, how dare I wish others would do the same?
And as for enforcing the indoor masking mandate when it was still in place? Yes, this did get easier as time went on but, I never went a day without wondering if ‘today was the day’ someone would become physically hostile when I offered them a blue disposable mask. That day has thankfully not come yet. Now I wonder after putting our State employee bodies on the service line for so long, what else?
What I do know is that being able to bear my entire face without wondering these things is a privilege I don’t have right now, and perhaps never did.
Let’s show up for each other, Minneapolis.
An Asian Cousin
- Southern Poverty Law Center’s interview with Dr. Jennifer Lee
- Stop AAPI Hate Report: The Rising Tide of Violence and Discrimination Against Asian American and Pacific Islander Women and Girls
- SPLC article about anti-immigrant movements and disease