Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that coronavirus (specifically COVID-19) is infecting people around the world. I am no medical professional nor do I have any desire to debate the validity of legitimate concern versus total hype of this outbreak. However, wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick–those are a given. I feel like that’s common sense, so all the overly informative, hand-washing posters are making me question people’s judgment.
At the time of writing this post, there is one confirmed case in the KC metro area and officials are saying not to panic. However, it’s quite a different story in states like New York or even California and Washington. While I am thankful the outbreak is not in full-force here in Kansas City, I also find myself thinking the demographic of our metro area is somewhat of a blessing for people who look like me.
This particular coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China. Because of that, many people are blaming the entire Chinese community for the spread of this virus. As an unfortunate result, Chinese people around the world have been the target of coronavirus-related hate crimes. Asian individuals have been spit on, assaulted, stabbed, sprayed with Febreze, vandalized in property, called profane names, and more–all because of racist labeling from the outbreak. I am Taiwanese-American. For me, the fear of being attacked for who I am is greater than the risk of exposure to the virus, at this point. Truly, ignorance is rearing its ugly head and manifesting itself in xenophobia. If people actually read the hard facts instead of giving in to the hysterical fear, they would know that boycotting Chinese restaurants for fear of coronavirus is illogical, racist scapegoating. Instead, Asian businesses and Chinatowns are suffering.
Here in Kansas City, the Chinese demographic I am part of is significantly smaller than places like California or New York. However, the hate my community is battling around the country is still very much felt and heard. My response has been that of deep sadness and rightful anger. On a smaller scale, I, too, have experienced racist microaggressions in the wake of this coronavirus. I’ve gotten dirty looks that make me uncomfortable in my own skin, and I’ve overheard foolishness like, “Chinese people are dirty.” I have also encountered unwarranted prejudice from people telling me that I need to be especially careful if I get sick, asking if any of my family members have the virus, and randomly sharing that they have been praying for me … all because of how I look. In casual conversations, people also often make jokes to poke fun at the virus. We’ve seen plenty of memes attempting to be funny, but at the same time, we should be careful about what may be insensitive and inappropriate to a people group experiencing serious backlash.
Even still, compared to other places around the country, the racial negativity towards Chinese people in KC is much less. I have a theory that Midwestern flare is our advantage, and we need to keep showcasing it. It is not difficult to see the Midwest as a place of family-oriented, friendly folks. I love it here because of the people, and that’s why I choose to raise Midwestern Asian kids, even though it has its challenges. I do not wish to read about hate crimes toward the Asian community in the place I’ve called home for the past 16 years. Quite frankly, I don’t wish to read about hate crimes toward any community in KC. I think we are better than that. Just like with any other culture, it is our duty as parents to teach our children what it means to be racially sensitive to all people. Fighting ignorance starts with us leading by example. We need to raise awareness and dialogue in love, instead of participating in hateful speech or giving in to misinformation. In the face of this outbreak, I believe that kindness can trump fear.