Growing up in a predominantly white suburb, I felt ashamed of my Asian identity. I feared being perceived as an outcast. Therefore, I adhered to the Anglo-dominant norms surrounding my neighborhood. 

As a child, I did not understand what racial discrimination was. Nevertheless, I dreaded my peers’ ignorant comments about my ethnicity. 

I didn’t even want to reveal my mother’s Chinese last name because I had heard racist jokes in the past. The potential of racist commentary inflicted my mental health with excruciating anxiety.

Attending college in Los Angeles was a blessing. I finally met students who looked like me and shared my experiences growing up in a predominantly-caucasian community. 

I began to embrace my identity. I felt liberated. Once Covid-19 hit, I no longer felt safe identifying as Chinese. My fears of racial discriminated had subsided.

As a white-passing Asian American, I am lucky I haven’t been the target of racial violence. 

Still, there are violent attacks on Chinese women and mass murder in Atlanta. I fear for my  family’s safety and the Asian American community at large.

I recently spoke with my close friend from Hong Kong about Anti-Asian hate in America. She expressed that she was “appalled by people’s tendency to blame the  pandemic on an entire race.” 

She feels that others view her as  “Americanized” due to her American accent. Unfortunately, a close friend of hers was recently punched in the face by a white woman on the subway. 

She said the pain of societal rejection outweighed the physical pain of the punch.

In the wake of such hate crimes, she must surround herself with friends who embrace her ethnicity.  However, she knows all too well that there will always be others who will not accept her.

Collective attacks on an entire race lead to deteriorating mental health. The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a self-reported survey on Chinese Americans. 

The study aimed to understand how Sinophobia affects the well-being of  Chinese Americans.  References to Covid-19 as the “China virus”  and the “Wuhan virus”  exacerbate sinophobia. 

Chinese Americans are experiencing increased symptoms of general psychological distress, depression, and anxiety. A quarter of the sample reported daily experiences of vicarious racial discrimination. 

Over half of the surveyors believe the media perpetuates the idea that Chinese Americans are a public health threat.  Racial discrimination towards Chinese parents also negatively impacts  their children’s mental health.

Consequently, discrimination leads to a vicious cycle of violence, shame, and instability.

While I’m grateful I am not a target of racial violence right now, I worry for my mother and grandmother. My grandmother is Vietnamese. However, ignorance leads many Americans to believe that  all Asian-looking individuals are Chinese. 

I am unsettled by the possibility that my mother and grandmother could be attacked. No one deserves to live in fear due to their race.

Right now, support for the Asian American community is critical.  Promoting understanding that Covid-19 is not inherently “Chinese” can  build compassion. 

America’s generalizations of a disease must be stopped. Support your local Chinese restaurants. Hold others  accountable for discriminatory language and behaviors. 

It  is our individual responsibility to create a more harmonious society.  The world cannot progress in an environment full of hatred and  ignorance. 

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Hannah Keenan

Hannah Keenan is a student at the University of Southern California studying International Relations and Mandarin. Hannah’s interests are human rights and culture.
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