Published on March 13th, 2020 | by Lisa Lim2
Being an Asian Mom Amid the Coronavirus
Last week at the hair salon, the woman next to me started saying all these hateful things to her hairdresser about Chinese people. Her young child was within earshot. Way to cultivate racism, “Mom!”
When the fear is as contagious as the virus, you get Xenophobia. And in this current political climate, permission to hate is granted from the top down.
So, we wake up to news of racial bullying in schools. And we wonder where the hell did our children learn all this hate from?
One story that continues to haunt me is the subway rider who sprayed Febreze on an Asian man, after screaming at him to move the hell out of his way.
These days, Asian Americans have quickly become the target of scrutiny and suspicion. We are seen as the “other,” the foreigners in our own country who don’t belong.
We see and feel the looks of disgust when an Asian person is spotted wearing a mask.
Newsflash: Asians wear masks NOT because they have the novel coronavirus. But because like everyone else, they don’t want to get it. Or because they have a cold and don’t want to spread their germs. It’s a responsible habit, done out of respect to others, and also to keep from getting sick.
I heard one story of an Asian Mom and her child being chased away from the free sample trays at Costco. Are you kidding me! They’re free! And probably covered with germs from everyone breathing and grabbing at seconds and thirds. Because everyone loves free food. So, get out of our way.
Should we be surprised? The media feeds this hate frenzy by featuring stereotypes of who carries the virus. Case in point, a photo of an Asian man wearing a mask was used to report the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus in New York. The affected person was actually a New York City woman in her 30s and she contracted the virus in Iran. And it’s not just conservative media who’s propagating these stereotypes. It’s everywhere.
Let’s remember this. Anyone can get the coronavirus. The virus does not discriminate.
Breaking news: Mayor De Blasio just declared a State of Emergency in New York City. The claim is that public schools will stay open, but parents from my child’s school have already started keeping their kids home. Let’s just say, I can feel the cabin fever setting in for all of us. But what I fear more than that is the sense of isolation my child will feel not being surrounded by his friends and classmates—who he adores. I wonder if he even knows why they’re not at school. He keeps naming all the different kids who didn’t go to school today. And says he’s sad they didn’t get to play together.
Lucky for him, his school is super diverse and there are a lot of Asians. But kids repeat what they hear, and the President is talking about a “foreign virus.” I think about the Asian kids in less diverse schools and I wonder how they must feel. Are they being ostracized? Are they being taunted? Are they being made to feel less than?
As an Asian Mom, I can’t help but think about the infinite what ifs? What if I go into the city on the train with my child and we get harassed by some crazy person? What if my child gets bullied at school because he’s Chinese? What if his friends or their parents start treating us differently? What if my child internalizes this fear and feels shame for being Asian? What if? What if? What if?
I guess what I’m trying to say to every parent out there is: be careful what you say to your child, or in front of your child. Because our children can take that fear and easily turn it into hate.