When people see me they see my dark hair, my skin tone, and my eyes. I can’t take off my eye shape with a simple swipe of makeup remover like it’s some trend. I can’t bleach my skin of 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?”
“She is South Korean.”
But when political and racial tensions become tense, my perceived race decides which racial derogatory words will be thrown at me from a white guy in a truck.
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 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. They don’t see the conversations my mom and I had in the car driving to school.
I break the silence in the car ride on the drive to school, “I’m scared that my life could be in danger.” I continued by saying that I was scared I could be the target of the next hate crime against Asian Americans. “Will I be the next Asian American to be targeted? Will I be physically assaulted? Will I have to defend myself? Will I come home with a bruised body?”My mom replies with worry and discomfort, “We’re in the more liberal part of Maine. Unfortunately, the most likely case scenario will happen is that you’ll receive a racist derogatory word said to you by someone in a truck while they drive by.” My mom continues, “you can’t live your life in fear. If you 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 responded, “I know I can’t let fear control my life, but I am scared. Maybe I could find my safety alarm that you gave me when I went to school in the city.”
I’m about to drive out of my driveway when I see three trucks along the sides where a sign says private property. My mom and I abruptly stop to move a large stick from the road. As I’m in the car, I see one of the trucks has scratches that make words. Along with the car I see “Pedophile President”, “Masks kill people”, and “Kommie Harris”. I feel everything surrounding me come to a stop, silence is ringing in my ears, I feel the blood rushing through me, my breathing is increasing. I see a Trump flag on top of the red truck. I quickly realize that my house is a few walks away from someone that supports Trump; someone that supports white supremacy; someone that might want to attack me because of my race. How safe am I if I want to take a walk outside my house? Am I safer at school knowing two people voted for Trump at my school’s mock election, or at my house where a truck was parked with “Kommie Harris”, “Pedophile President”, and “Masks kill people” etched into their truck?
Scared and tense, I left the car and walked into the school building. Knowing a truck that had Trump supporters as the owner of the truck illegally parked near my house. Stepping into an academic institution where I am the only person of color. I left with fear and uneasiness weighing my body down.
A week later, my mom and I returned home from a long day at school. Looking forward to having some time to relax on the weekend, everything seems to freeze when I see a truck parked near my house. My sudden thoughts are that it’s the same truck I saw etched with slogans of Qanon. My fear intensifies when I see it’s not the etched red truck. I feared that it was another truck that supported Trump. I feared that the construction company had found the location of a young Chinese American whose mother had complained about their illegal parking and spreading of misinformation about COVID-19. For a brief second, I thought I was in danger, from such proximity to my house. The place I call home, the place where I feel safe to voice my feelings, anger, sadness, and frustrations. By seeing a truck, my first belief was that I was in danger.
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 receiving such violent and hateful behavior. To anyone that is not Asian, remember that we are scared. We are scared for ourselves, our family members, our loved ones, and we do not want to contract and die from this global pandemic. We are scared just like you. We are humans, and misinformation should not be controlling your behavior. Speak out with us, don’t stay silent and remain complicit, because your silence is upholding white supremacy.
By Zabrina Richards