By Zabrina Richards
When people see me, they see my dark hair, my skin tone, and my eyes. I cannot alter my eye shape with a simple swipe of makeup remover like it’s some trend. I can’t bleach my skin from its natural yellow hue. I can’t get rid of my pin-straight black hair. I can’t discard my race like it’s a costume. Even without a qipao, I’m still seen as Asian.
To some, my race is an amusing guessing game:
“Are you an Inuit?”
“Wait, are you a Native American?”
“Hey! Excuse me, Miss, are you that missing Latina girl?”
But when political, economic, racial tensions rise, whatever race I am perceived to be determines which derogatory racial words will get shouted at me by some white guy in a truck.
Since COVID-19, I have felt that there is a target on my back. From seeing other Asians around the world being attacked for the color of our skin, I have had to grapple with the idea that I am not excluded from being the recipient of such violent and hateful behavior. In the time of COVID-19, others see me for my race, my ethnicity. They don’t see how I am feeling. They don’t see that I’m scared, and that fear is eating me from my insides. My home seems to be my only safe space. At home, I don’t have to cautiously look around me and grip my phone in case I need to call someone. I don’t have to brace myself if I hear a peer of mine say something racist. My white peers, teachers, coworkers, and family don’t know what it’s like to be Asian American amidst a global pandemic, where your race and ethnicity are being scapegoated.
Extracts from a conversation with my mom on the way to school.
I break the silence. “I’m scared I could become another hate crime statistic. Will I be the next Asian American to be targeted? Will I be physically assaulted? Will I return home with a bruised body?”
My mom says, “We’re in the more liberal part of Maine. Unfortunately, the most likely case scenario is that you’ll receive a racist derogatory word thrown at you by someone while they drive by. You can’t live your life in fear. If you take a walk during school lunch break, you can text me when you leave and return to school.”
Scared and frustrated that I have to think this way, I said, “I know I can’t let fear control my life, but I am scared.”
Asian Americans are scared for our families, loved ones, and ourselves. The last thing we want is to deal with one of the worst burdens of this global pandemic – the epidemic that is racism. We are scared just like you. We are humans, and misinformation about Asian Americans should not obscure that truth. Please speak out with us, because silence upholds white supremacy.
Zabrina Richards (she/her) identifies as a Chinese American adoptee and is currently studying at university. In the future, Zabrina wants to hold office and write legislation to uplift marginalized communities.