The Effects of the Pandemic on the Asian Community

Tess Iosepovici, Contributing Writer

Covid-19 has sparked many issues for many people. One unfortunate result has been the rise in physical and verbal attacks on Asian Americans. As Covid-19 has been referred to as “Kung Fu Flu” or the “Chinese Virus,” people have begun to think that harming the Asian community is justified. The scariest part is that victims are afraid to speak up, feeling that they won’t be justified or that it’s almost not worth it. Sadly, this shows the world we live in and how divided our communities really are.

According to the New York Times, “the number of hate crimes with Asian-American victims reported….jumped to 28 in 2020, from just three the previous year.” That’s just the hate crimes reported. Since people have kept silent, so many have gone unspoken about. 

One hate crime that was reported, and was seen over social media, happened in Queens: an elderly woman was pushed to the ground on a crowded street. Because this attack occurred during the day, many people witnessed it. Another attack happened in White Plains, right in front of The Westchester Mall. A mall that we all have been to, right? Maybe fifteen minutes away from Hastings? 

In front of that very mall, Nancy Toh, an 83-year-old woman, was punched and spat on. According to Lohud, “The man spat on her and punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground […] she hit her head on the ground and momentarily blacked out.  When she came to, the suspect was gone.” 

So no, this issue isn’t thousands of miles away or in a different state. These are just two of the many attacks, happening extremely close to home. These attacks prove that some people are ruthless; they don’t care. It seems that attackers aren’t even trying to be secretive. They are blatantly racist, committing these crimes in daylight and in open public places. Do you know why people are okay with being racist? The answer is our political leaders. Once racist comments come out of their mouths, it suddenly becomes an “okay signal.” 

Susan Shin, a Hastings mom and local doctor, said, I think when [President Trump] labeled the virus as the ‘Chinese virus,’ he highlighted or made that hate more apparent. It’s not anyone’s fault. The virus was in Italy too, so I think the politicians have made it worse by naming where the virus came from without having a proven fact.” Covid-19 has traveled everywhere. When someone with as much power as Trump labeled the disease as China’s fault, he risked sparking some extreme racist reactions.

As Asian American hate crimes rise, more Pacific East Islanders feel threatened, sensing the need “to keep their guard up.” Whether that’s by avoiding public transportation, dressing differently, or simply not leaving their homes as much, Asian Americans are starting to have to make “compromises” to feel safer even within their own communities. 

One woman, Crisanna Tang, recently got verbally and physically attacked on the subway in New York City. A man, not wearing a mask, spat on her and told her that the virus started with Chinese people.  According to the New York Times, Ms. Tang “is hypervigilant. She started taking the express bus, which costs more than the subway. She stopped wearing a face shield to attract less attention. She carries pepper spray in her bag.” 

This is an enormous issue. The fact that Asian Americans are having to adjust their daily lives to feel safer is outrageous and just wrong. 

“Sometimes I speak Korean to my family members when we’re out in public,” said Ms. Shin. “But I definitely don’t do that anymore because I am more aware and more sensitive to what people might think. A perceived threat is a thing, too. You don’t always have to have the presence of a threat to feel like you are being threatened. I just look over my shoulder a bit more and I’m more careful about how I speak in public. The hate crimes have definitely changed how I carry myself in public settings.” 

Having to be that self conscious of what you sound like to other people is frustrating and shows the lack of equity in our society. It’s eye opening and crazy that something like speaking a different language would make a person feel vulnerable to attack

The under-reporting of hate crimes is another important issue. Unfortunately, many victims are frightened to speak up. Asian Americans have been historically considered a “Model Minority.” They are often portrayed as a group that is not harmed enough to be spoken about, but at the same time, they are discriminated against way more than the white majority. Because of this awkward position, Asian Americans tend to not want to speak up. They are scared that nothing will be done to help, or somehow, if they speak up, their report will get back to the attacker. 

Connie Jung Cho said in a recent NPR interview, “If the community feels that the police aren’t going to do anything, then chances are that word gets around and the community feels next time I’m not going to report it then. What’s the point?” Asian Americans feel helpless. As victims, they don’t believe the attacks will be recognized in a consequential way.  

So you might ask, what can our Hastings community do to spread awareness about these recent attacks? We can do so much by using social media to share posts and share articles. The hatred towards Asian Americans needs to be talked about because it’s happening right outside our door.