Roxy Shih is an internationally acclaimed, Emmy-nominated writer/director and speaker. Born in Europe, Roxy’s third culture background has given her a distinct perspective. As a filmmaker, she is known for her versatility and has worked with many independent companies both overseas and domestically, making her one of the most in-demand cinema artists today.

Being Asian in the Time of Coronavirus

While on a phone call with a friend recently, we started talking about how much the coronavirus has affected us, from future plans as simple as summer vacation to current events like pushing back the Democratic National Convention. We also discussed how it has been affecting the Asian communities around the world, with people stigmatizing Asian people, especially ones wearing masks. My friend, who’s from the Philippines, said she had been on a train in the Netherlands, where she goes to university, and moved her bag from the seat next to her so a mother and her son could sit down. The unknown woman sitting facing her, told the mother and son in Dutch that my friend had the virus, so they shouldn’t sit there. My friend did not have coronavirus, and was merely wearing a mask for health precautions. 

Events like these have been happening everywhere, like how graffiti has been scrawled on Asian restaurants and businesses telling the owners to ‘go back to China’ and ‘take the Corona back’, as if every Asian (and only Asians) spread this disease. This reflects other anti-Asian sentiments I have heard about, and only continues a legacy of distrust and dislike that is already present in the United States. I have witnessed a Chinese woman being called a ‘chink’ by African-American preteens in central Boston, and with more of these events happening, my fear grows. On April 6, an Asian-American woman in Brooklyn, New York City had acid dumped on her while she was taking out the trash, causing second-degree burns. The man evidently lay in wait for her, as part of a premeditated attack, which the Asian American community reeled against. We were shocked and hurt that with everything going on, people would be causing intentional pain amidst a pandemic. 

As a Chinese woman, I am grateful that nothing has personally happened to me like this, but it is evident that events like these are happening all over the world to Asian people. This makes me increasingly afraid of what could happen to me even after this pandemic quiets down, because the fear will still be present. Some argue that Asians have infamously not stood against racism against other people of color, and therefore find it difficult to stand up for Asians in this trying time. While that may have seemed to be true before, now is not the time to be hypocritical, nor an excuse to keep quiet. These things may be more commonly reported in the United States, but the truth is that it’s happening globally. Unfortunately, this is a reality that many Asians are facing, one of targeted racism, fear, and disgust. 

Therefore, this issue is important not only for Asian people, but everybody, as we can all be more aware of what our actions and expressions may look like to the people around us. We can set a precedent for welcome, friendly, helpful gestures in times of need, rather than becoming known as harsh, discriminating, and cruel. It is important to hold ourselves and others accountable for our words, deeds, and ideas, as if nothing is said, nothing will change. Coronavirus does not discriminate, as we have seen, with skyrocketing cases in Italy, the United States, and Spain. So it is even more pressing of an issue to defend those being accused of carrying the virus, as in truth, anyone can carry it, but Asians have become the scapegoat. 

Several ‘jokes’ have been made about Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, with people renaming the movie Train to Busan, which is about a zombie outbreak, to ‘Train to Wuhan’, or calling coronavirus the ‘Kung Flu’. Someone on Facebook posted a photo using ‘Wuhan’ as an acrostic to remind people to wash their hands, cementing the poisonous idea that they are most at fault, and needed as a reminder to stay hygienic. These jokes are neither funny nor appropriate, as they merely continue to portray Asians as the issue and cause, when it is the disease itself that makes people sick, and anyone can carry it. Stop reposting hurtful things that you think are funny, when they are actually damaging and racist. Politicians are not helping to dispel these racist and xenophobic ideas, with President Trump infamously calling it the ‘Chinese virus’ enabling millions of people to believe that phrasing should be used, when it obviously should not. I feel personally at fault, even though I should not, and it makes me wary when out in public, for fear of something happening to me or around me. 

 Now is far from the time to be stirring up hate and sowing seeds of distrust, as we should be standing in solidarity with each other. In order to do so, we need to speak up for anyone being attacked, spat on, yelled at, and the myriad of other things that are being done to Asians and Asian-Americans. Accountability of ourselves and others is also key, as if we do not educate others about why their way of thinking is derogatory and damaging, they will continue to do so. Ask those minorities or marginalized people around you how they are doing, and if there is anything you can do to help. We need to know that there is support around us and that love will drive out this hatred. Don’t propagate fears of Asians, or the idea that it is okay to use some of the poisonous language that politicians are using. If racism happens near you, ask the targeted person if they are alright, and stand up and defend them if possible. It is more important than ever that we join together and band against this wave of hatred and fear, because that is the only way it will stop. There is hope that this epidemic will cease, and meanwhile we can treat others with grace and respect as we learn to navigate this new normal.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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