Updated: May 5, 2020
I want to start off by saying that I have been trying to bury my head in the sand when it comes to the topic of Covid-19 and the stigmatization of Asian Americans. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there has been a lot of fear and panic leading to mistreatment and verbal and physical aggression against Asian Americans. Sadly, I believe Asian Americans will continue to be a target of misplaced anger and verbal harassment long after this pandemic is over. This hits very close to home for my family. I can't remain silent, hoping that with the restoration of “normal” activities and our normal lives, this stigmatization against Asian Americans will stop. My youngest daughter was born in China . We are very proud of where she came from and that part of her identity. In fact, if you personally know me, you know that I have traveled to China many times since we adopted her in 2012. I love China, I love its people, I love its culture,I love the country. I have engaged in providing trauma informed trainings at communities serving vulnerable children in my travels there. I have also visited and have engaged in supporting several non-profits serving and empowering women. I can share so many stories of redemption and many more stories of beautiful humans doing beautiful things for others--Those stories for another blog.
A few weeks ago, a friend and I were walking on a trail near our home as my 10 year old daughter was riding her bike ahead of us. A woman saw my daughter and after passing her, she began verbally assaulting my friend and I. I won’t go into the specifics of what she said, however it was based on the fact that my child is of Chinese descent. At first, we were confused at such behavior (she even threatened to call the police). We quickly realized, she had associated us with my daughter who was biking ahead of us and was angry and yelling racist remarks simply because of my child’s race. Thankfully, my daughter had gone ahead of us and didn’t hear the assault. It took me a while to process what had happened, but as the weeks have gone by I have noticed when we are in public, some people look at her with disgust, this is extremely hurtful and damaging to any adult, even more so a child. I wish I didn’t have to have the conversation of racism, xenophobia, and hatred with my daughter who is so young, but the alternative is not a choice.
These are our personal experiences which thankfully have not led to physical assaults. But this, and even worse, is happening all over our country. I can’t stop thinking about the Asian American family of three, including two young children, who recently were attacked and stabbed at a Sam’s Club. Every day, there are 150+ cases of physical and verbal assaults against Asian Americans being reported, and hundreds more unreported. While this pandemic has brought up this feeling and conversation regarding racism in my family, it is not the first time we experienced it. At six years old my daughter experienced racism for the first time, at places we think are safe like school and church. Unfortunately, it is highly likely these physical and verbal aggressions will continue to escalate for her and for the Asian American community due to this pandemic. While I am not unfamiliar with racism, in fact, I have experienced it many times in my lifetime as an immigrant latino woman, this is the reality for the Asian American community today. Racism is my daughter's reality, this is my reality, this is the reality of many of my black friends and other minorities, this is our reality.
We can be a part of creating a kinder and compassionate world. Here are a few thoughts for us to consider:
Where am I located in this conversation? As a parent of an Asian American child, I feel is important for me to speak against racism. Sharing our experiences with friends, other parents, leaders and others in our spheres of influence is a critical part of educating our communitiy. We all fall in different places in this conversation about race and ethnicity. For example, for my friend who was walking with us on the trail, this was her first time being witness to this type of racial profiling. In turn, she is now more aware of these type of assaults happening and therefore feeling more compelled to stand in solidarity and speak up against this type of maltreatment. My encouragement is that we all engage in self-reflection and ask ourselves. What can I do to learn more about the micro and macro aggresions Asian Americans, black, latinx, and other minorities are experiencing? What is true and false about Covid-19 from accurate resources? What is my role in rebuilding a healthy perspective about Asian Americans? How do I talk to my children about racism, Covid-19, Asian Americans, the black, latino and other minorities?
What language and words am I using when talking about Covid-19? I believe that it is necessary to understand that language is really important. When we speak about Covid-19, it is important to understand that it is not the “Chinese” virus. This language fuels hatred toward those who are Chinese decendant and Asian American in general. The reality is that children, even adults, cannot distinguish between the Chinese government and Asian Americans. It is also important we abstain from jokes and memes about China. Comments and off handed jokes about China are harmful to our Asian American community. I can say that I have personally experienced adversity dressed as racism because I am an immigrant latino woman. Growing up and throughout my adult life, jokes and comments against the latino community and immigrants created shame, fears and a confusion of my identity. Through self-reflection, can we identify what words and language we currently use that could negatively impact someone else’s life?
How do I talk to my children about racism? You don’t need to be an adoptive parent of a child of color to stand up, speak up and advocate for minorities being physically and verbally assaulted. When you stand in solidarity with minorites in general, we are teaching our children deep lessons about compassion, empathy, love, respect, and human dignity. It is important not be afraid to have conversations with our children about racism and bullying. When we ourselves demonstrate compassion and respect to those who look different than us, we are modeling it for our children. Both honest conversations and modeling of appropriate behavior will solidify the concepts of compassion, empathy, love and more in their hearts. We can also teach our children to report any aggression or bullying against their Asian American, or any others who are being targeted because of the color of their skin, to their teacher or a trusted adult.
How do we work towards a kinder more compassionate world? We must work together in denouncing racism and xenophobia. This is the work of the collective. We all desire a kinder world for generations to come. That desire requires all of us working together to extend kindness and compassion to others who look, act, talk, or think differently than us. Racism and hate crimes against minorities will not go away overnight, however, if we work together as the collective, we can create kinder and better communities.We must create safe spaces for stories to be told, listen to other's story and validate it. This is a discipline we must exercise in order to enlarge our capacity for compassion. You and I can be a catalyst of change in a world where no child needs to experience the adversity of racism. It starts in our own hearts, with our families, and it translates to the larger community. Let's create a world which honors all humans, a kinder and more compassionate world.