ask, order, or subliminal messaging directed towards me, I submit myself to the
power of words and narratives showcased by my Twitter feed or in mainstream
media that make my heart yearn and my brain tick. The inequities of American
exceptionalism know no bounds or borders; they enter classrooms with brown
children who don't yet know how to multiply, who read at third-grade levels as
eighth-graders. The blame is put on the person whom the system has failed.
Asians shouldn't raise their hand to wait and be called on; we should just go
back to China.
What is this
that I am seeing sprout up in the numerous group chats that I am in? Over the
past six weeks, every few days my dad would send a link to a news article
reporting another case of racial discrimination against an Asian in America.
It's certainly not just happening in America, but when it's in the country
you've called home for forty years, it enters the soul a little deeper. I feel
the urge to, but hold off on, sending the other reports I'm seeing in group
chats with my cousins, friends from college, or the group of AANHPIMENASA
teachers I have deep solidarity with. The danger of a single story doesn't
apply here. My parents feel unsafe; I can do nothing to change that.
grocery store remains open for business. People need food. When the panic
began, sales were significantly down, with Saturday and Sunday traffic
comparable to Wednesday's, the lowest of the week. I wonder if our usual
traffic of non-AAPI customers (which is not insignificant) has either packed
for the winter or chosen a different grocery store altogether or if it's just
Asian-on-Asian discrimination, but something tells me it's the former. My dad
continues to go to work to keep procurement and payments up, to keep morale
amongst the workers up, but he lives in uncertainty like us. My family got
creative in retaining its usual customers while giving back to the community,
offering free toilet paper to seniors aged 65-and-up, but the parking lot
remains the emptiest I've seen it in twelve years. On the upside, Kroger is
doing just fine.
The doors to mom's
bakery have remained locked, other than a short venture we took to grab
glutinous and all-purpose flour for my sister to rekindle her inner Next Great Baker. Without work, my mom floats
around the house, stretching out her downward dog when she's not watching the
latest news update, sewing facemasks from old fabrics, playing Animal Crossing,
or cooking. "You don't know. During this time you don't want to bring home
food from other people." She's afraid of the virus. I ask if she wants to join me for a walk later
that day. "Not today, too many people will be at the park, so if they pass
by you and they get it, they will remember you." She's afraid that we are the virus.
My lack of
privilege affords me a different privilege of shedding equal parts humor and
criticism on the behaviors of some of my people -- that right is reserved for
us, for me. Though I can't help but feel like my mom is overreacting, I catch myself remembering that I am not an epidemiologist or a doctor -- I'm barely a master of eighth-grade science. I don't know what this virus is capable of, but I do know
what other people are capable of, and to an extent, what I am capable of.
when my mom, my sister, and I take a walk through the park, I tell my mom to
take off her mask, that it's unnecessary. In reality, I am just afraid of the
spectacle of an older Asian woman with a face mask in a town where 4.4% of people are
AAPI. I, too, am scared of people. I submit myself to the power of words and narratives showcased by my Twitter feed or in mainstream media that make my heart yearn and my brain tick. Meanwhile, I'll stick to my capabilities to
keep commenting on what I see from my pair of slanted eyes, hear from my
perfectly in-tune ears, and breathe from my pair of healthy lungs -- at least I think they are.