The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly amplified the hostility in America. Like the virus itself, racial violence has spread widely, increasing specifically towards Asian Americans. Lately, Asians have been targeted by derogatory and degrading language online and in person. Americans are dubbing this virus as the “Chinese virus,” which carries heavy racist implications and places blame on the Asian community. It also enables the degradation of Asian culture and the use of stereotypes. This kind of xenophobia and racism has severely impacted Asian businesses nationwide as well. It is imperative to mention that this discrimination has always been prevalent in our country, and that this pandemic increased existing anti-Asian sentiment, rather than creating it.
Because Alpha Phi Gamma is an Asian-interest sisterhood that aims to raise awareness of Asian American issues, it is important for our sisters to share our voices and speak up for one another during this difficult time. Two of our sisters from Lambda Chapter share some of the many experiences that several other Asian Americans may have experienced or witnessed.
Our first sister, Yearim Suzi “Supremacy” Choi, shares her encounter with anti-Asian sentiment while she was running errands:
“I am Korean. My mom is Korean. My mom and I went to Aldi’s to go grocery shopping during the pandemic. Just like everyone else in the store, we wore masks. My mom being overly cautious, we even wore gloves for extra protection. The grocery store was a little more crowded than usual, so I decided to wait in line while my mom grabbed a few more items. Since I’ve read and seen many attacks on Asians since the pandemic started through the media, I tried to be extra courteous and keep extra distance from others. While I was standing in line, I made eye contact with the cashier that would be checking our items. Without hesitation, she immediately got up and talked to the gentleman in front of me. She told him “I’m going to be closing this lane but I can take you.” He looked confused and told her “there’s a lady behind me,” while gesturing towards me. Without even glancing in my direction, in a loud voice she stated “IT can go find another line.” I had to wait in a new line for 10 more minutes because of my appearance. It was frustrating and degrading to be treated like that while I only wanted to get groceries with my mother.”
Our other sister, Thu Loan “STARGAZE” Tran, explains her experience working as a lobby attendant at a hospital:
“I am the only Asian lobby attendant at my local hospital; all my other coworkers are either white or latinx. Because of the pandemic, our job now entails screening all patients and limiting access to unnecessary visitors in the hospital to avoid crowding. For some reason, people always feel personally victimized when I have to stop and ask them the screening questions or tell them that they are not allowed to go to a specific area.
One time, a person tried to ignore me and walk past but when I physically stood in their way, they cursed me out, calling me all kinds of racial slurs. Another time, I had a patient that refused to speak with me because she was scared I was infected and demanded to speak with my white coworker instead. Recently, a visitor (who was already wearing a mask) asked me for a handful of extra masks to hoard and when I told him the hospital was low on PPE, he blamed me and said it was “our fault” that they had to hoard masks in the first place.
Thankfully, my coworkers do stick up for me when things like this happen, but it truly does feel like a terrifying time to be Asian American. Sadly, being threatened for doing my job, coupled with the fear of exposure to the virus is a reality that many other Asian Americans experience.”
We hope that by putting light on our Asian sisters’ experiences, it will help others understand their perspectives and feelings. We call for our sisters to make an effort to stand in solidarity with the Asian American community and continue to be proactive in spreading awareness to these issues.