Being the youngest of 4 children, I spent most of my childhood alone with my grandmother. My parents both worked all day while my sisters would attend school, then come home to do homework. While they were gone, my grandmother and I built a special bond. We would take walks every day during the summer, garden, cook, and I would help her with English whenever she needed something translated.
On November 8, 2016, my grandmother and I left our house to participate in our democracy. It was the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In the past, Donald Trump has shown many examples of racism towards minorities. For example, using highly offensive phrases, supporting groups that are known for disliking immigrants, and associating minorities with bad connotations. Knowing Trump’s ideas and plans if he won the election, my family chose to vote for Hillary Clinton. Going with my grandmother, I was her translator as she could not comprehend English well. Walking to the lobby of the nearest voting center, we encountered many people participating in the election.
After submitting the ballot, we left the lobby and headed down the street for lunch. I vividly remember whilst walking home, a group of rowdy teenage boys crossing the street to the side where we were walking. They came closer and closer laughing, but we were clueless as to why. Worried about what their intentions were, my grandmother and I wanted to cross to the other side, but cars were going by. As we passed each other, the group of teenage boys constantly repeated racist, derogatory remarks toward us. As a wave of anxiety rushed through us, we wanted to escape from the situation as quickly as possible. All I could possibly think about was how anxious my grandmother was. At the age of 77, she did not need to endure another racist act in America. Rushing home, we immediately felt a sense of relief because we would never have to encounter them again.
After this incident, my thoughts of America, being a place of acceptance and new beginnings, slowly cut back. This situation has likely occurred to many immigrants of Asian descent as it is normalized in the United States, especially with the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, CNN has reported that Asian hate crimes have increased by 900%. I suddenly began to see more and more reports of attacks against Asian elders on the news and social media. Our former president of the United States kept calling COVID-19 the “China Virus,” “Kung Flu,” or “the Asian Virus,” which led to an increase in hate crimes.
One specific case that enraged me was Xiao Zhen Xie’s case. A 70-year-old elder in San Francisco was attacked, but she fought off her attacker with the closest thing she could find: a wooden stick. While she was the one that was assaulted, the attacker was the one who was on the stretcher, which caused an uproar because of how ridiculous it was. She was crying and screaming in Cantonese, but bystanders just surrounded her.
It is horrifying that they treated the attacker before the victim. Moreover, the mass murder in Georgia that killed 8 people total, 6 of Asian descent, was lightly brushed off with the excuse of the murderer having a “bad day.” These are only two of many instances that have occurred in our country since the start of the pandemic.
Thousands of people have stood up to fight the hate crimes towards the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community. As Boston contains one of the largest AAPI communities in America, there have been multiple protests all over. Spreading the word about hate crimes, donating to organizations that fight anti-racism, and educating others about the current situation are all ways to help. The fight for equality will be difficult, but if we all do our part, minorities will once again feel accepted in this multicultural country which was once proudly considered a melting pot.
© Kayla Lew. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.