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Life as an Asian American teenager during coronavirus | COMMENTARY

Asian Americans have become the target of xenophbic slurs because the coronavirus pandemic originated in China.
Asian Americans have become the target of xenophbic slurs because the coronavirus pandemic originated in China. (Steven Senne/AP)

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was first reported by the World Health Organization, it has spread like wildfire. It first made its way through Asia and then landed itself all over the world.

People in many countries are scrambling to find disinfectant wipes, face masks and hand soap to try to combat this new pandemic. This disease has caused fear in families all over the world. Yet people are characterizing it as an Asian disease and using xenophobic terms to do so.

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The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” This is what leads to racism. During this coronavirus crisis many Asians have described instances where they are blatantly chastised simply for their ethnicity. While scrolling through Instagram, I’ve found numerous posts with examples of Asians being bullied in school, publicly shamed and even beaten up on the streets.

When there is a problem, society always finds something or someone to blame, and in this case it’s Asians. In society’s eyes, coronavirus is the fault of Asians because it originated in Wuhan, China. People fabricate stories in their minds about Asians who purposefully want to kill off the entire world and spread a deadly disease to do it.

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At first it started with one or two instances and now racist coronavirus-related stories crop up everyday. It has become the norm to see countless examples of Asians being mistreated because of their race and nationality.

I am a 14-year-old high school student and all I can say is that society is so naive. They don’t look at the whole story. They assume that because coronavirus originated in China, it’s the fault of the Chinese. It must be upsetting, especially for the Chinese, to hear people addressing COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus” or any other derogatory name. Chinese people are all victims of the coronavirus just like everyone else.

Many Chinese Americans have family members who passed away from the coronavirus. Those families can’t even visit their deceased relatives because they can’t travel to their home country. Same goes for many other Asian Americans. Asian Americans are going through hard times right now and we must help each other and pick each other up.

The other day, my mom and I went to the Korean supermarket to stock up food. There, I walked past two sisters who kept on whispering to themselves. I walked past them multiple times and eventually they called out “corona time,” blatantly and in public. For a moment, I was too shocked to say anything. Then, I was embarrassed because other people started looking at me. And then I felt angry because it wasn’t right for them to do that.

Yes, I am Asian American and I’m a very proud Asian American. It is not right for me to be treated badly because of my race. A friend of mine from school posted on her Instagram story the other day about her own firsthand experience with coronavirus-related racism. She wrote that someone left the Starbucks line because she was Asian.

Having to deal with coronavirus, the disease itself, is exhausting and scary. Having to deal with the fear and embarrassment of hearing racist comments in public and being chastised for just being Asian is unacceptable

Now, even though the coronavirus is strong and spreading faster than ever, it’s not too late for people to take a step back and change their attitudes toward Asians. Among the mean and nasty comments, I have seen many inspiring quotes on Instagram and other social media platforms, such as, “Coronavirus does not validate your racism.”

This is a call to action. Coronavirus is not just an “Asian problem.” It’s a problem that is impacting everyone around the world. So everyone must work together to find a solution instead of blaming others for a problem that is essentially all nature’s doing.

Sarah Cho (sarahyeonjae@gmail.com) is a ninth grade student at Poolesville High School’s Global Ecology Magnet Program. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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