Being An Asian American During The COVID-19 Pandemic Means Facing Constant Xenophobia
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Being An Asian American During The COVID-19 Pandemic Means Facing Constant Xenophobia

Your behavior is sickening—leave us alone.

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Girl with mask
Clariza Adao

The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for several weeks now. No one could have predicted the severity of the global pandemic. This is not an easy time for anyone. People's normal routines are abruptly interrupted and expected to adjust to their new routine. Being in a state of uncertainty is a stress-inducing experience for everyone.

Asian Americans constantly combat racial discrimination and xenophobia from non-Asian populations. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This behavior is not acceptable. No one should ever endure this traumatic experience. Leadership trickles down to its followers. Our president referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese flu" at the beginning of the pandemic. Consequently, whether it was intentional or not, he condoned this type of behavior.

Growing up, I did not grow up with people who looked like me. Almost always, I was the "only Asian." I was susceptible to answering questions about my culture and faced microaggressions. As a result, I can adapt to environments where I am the "only one."

However, when I visited Champaign-Urbana, Illinois back in March, it was different. I sensed tension.

March was when the severity of COVID-19 was not as serious. There was no need to practice social distancing and the stay-at-home order was not in place. Before heading back to Chicago, I ran a few errands. I went to Target and the Market Place Mall with my sister and her best friend.

At Target, I went to the bathroom. I came out of the stall and the woman came out of the other stall afterward. She instantly glared at me disgusted as if I walked out of the bathroom without washing my hands. I did not mind her. I proceeded to wash my hands for at least 20 seconds. I felt her eyes on me. Before I finished washing hands, the woman washes her hands for less than five seconds and left the bathroom. I was utterly confused and grossed out.

It was no secret that the locals were scrutinizing me at Target. I knew it was racial discrimination. To test this theory, I coughed and those nearby instantly fled. At that point, my annoyance grew. I did not hesitate to talk back to shoppers with lingering stares and rude behavior directed at me.

Market Place Mall was not any different. I felt everyone's piercing eyes on me. At Finish Line, I waited in line with my sister's best friend. From the corner of my eye, I saw a mom pulling her son closer followed by her telling him "hold your breath." I vividly remember laughing out loud in disbelief. As much as I wanted to cough out of spite, I didn't. SHE REALLY TRIED IT.

I didn't understand: Champaign-Urbana was my home for four years. How can I be an unwelcome guest at my own home?

Fortunately, I have not experienced severe incidents in Chicago. However, I am excessively cautious every time I go outside, especially in public places (i.e. grocery stores). My fear is to be heavily harassed in public, which unfortunately happened to one of my cousins. It is frustrating because I am outspoken and do not tolerate ignorance. Due to the current climate, it is not worth it to risk my safety. As intense as this sounds, I have a sense of reassurance when I see more Asians because it's guaranteed that I will not deal with racial discrimination. This is my reality. This is my new normal.

Unfortunately, we are not granted a definite answer when everything will get back to "normal." Once we get back to "normal," no doubt there will be lingering resentment.

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