By Kai Curry
Northwest Asian Weekly
COVID was bad enough. Then there was the rise in crime, the rise in homelessness and joblessness, the rise in racism. From the start, I was afraid to step out of my house lest I be spit on by someone as some kind of a sick joke to spread the pandemic—I heard that people were licking doorknobs—or after the Lady Gaga incident, lest someone steal my dog! Just when our nation seemed to get a second chance—Biden isn’t perfect and out of so many eligible, and more diverse candidates, he was not my first choice, but he is better than the guy with the orange hair—then, suddenly the anti-Asian hate and racism seems to have launched into the stratosphere.
Throughout this entire pandemic—of racism, of disease and crime, of fear—has been this entity of “the media”—not the Weekly, because I don’t think we cater to this—but so many outlets have stepped up their efforts to create in all of us a continuing sense of unease and insecurity. Do we pay attention to the news? Do we not? On the one hand, we are told by healthcare professionals to limit our exposure to the media because it is exactly that—frightening. On the other hand, we are sure that we need to stay informed—in order to be aware that we might need to protect ourselves. I don’t want to go walking blithely into anything. But sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be nicer if I was walking blithely along, not knowing about all the hate out there.
And, how many of these crimes—be it kicking an elderly person or stealing a catalytic converter—can be accredited to copycats? Thanks, sensationalist news outlets. Person A didn’t know catalytic converters had valuable materials inside but now he does, and that line of cars sure looks tempting. Person B didn’t think about taking out her hate on people who are different than she is, but now that she sees so many people doing it, maybe she feels empowered to do so, too.
There was the obnoxious behavior from the Uber passengers. And now, the tragedy at the spas in Atlanta. There are incidents in our own city. And it continues in spite of people of all colors speaking up. And in spite of fairly swift repercussions, in some cases, though not so much in others, we thought this would be over. The man, our former president, still not gone enough, who seemed to be spurring everyone on is out of the Oval Office—so what is happening?
It’s happening to Asians, Asian Americans, and it’s happening to the people that care about them and that stand by them. The other day, I was walking with my significant other, who is Chinese, just a few paces from our residence. We had found a nice loop where we could get some exercise, but I still only ever take it if he is with me. This time, though, as we are coming down the hill, we see a man standing by his vehicle in his driveway. I can’t help immediately, taking note that this man is middle-aged, white, and overweight. I noticed this maybe more than I would have because he is staring aggressively at us. THE ENTIRE TIME.
I used to work in retail. It works really well—in retail—to confront someone right away, such as if you think they might be planning to steal something. So, I took the preemptive move of saying “Hello” to this person. No answer. He kept staring. “How are you?” I asked. More staring. We were passing him now, and so I waved and said, “Have a nice day!” No answer. Still staring.
I can tell you, I was checking behind our backs for the rest of that walk. I was sure he was going to come driving up on us any second. I attributed it to race. I couldn’t attribute it to anything else.
Why do we have to live with this?
So, I asked myself, why are anti-Asian hate crimes spiking right now, just when we thought they should be tapering off? What kind of person attacks an old person? I asked myself this, in particular, as the elderly seem to have been a large majority of the targets up until Atlanta.
I’ll tell you. A weak person. A person who is freaking out because Trump lost. An angry person that feels backed into a corner. Yes, an animal backed into a corner is dangerous. But weak.
And the sickness has to come out before it can be cured.
Think about this.
How did Trump lose? Trump lost because good people, people who believe in racial equality, in kindness to others, stood together and voted so that someone else would take his place.
Here’s the big takeaway, no matter how scary this all is. And I know it’s not a comfort a lot of the time. But the fact is that we are not alone. We can stand together, we can be strong, and these people committing these hate crimes know that now. So please, don’t avoid what’s happening—but protect yourself. Don’t avoid people that are different from you because a lot of them think that anti-Asian hate is horrible, too. Remind yourself that you have allies. We can win this fight for equality, recognition, and justice. Maybe we are closer to winning than ever before. It’s not us—it’s people fueled by hate that are, actually, in danger of being made irrelevant.
Kai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.