In early March, just before California put out a stay-at-home order, writer and educator Rachelle Cruz’s parents were taking the BART train back to their home in Hayward in the San Francisco Bay area after a long day at work in the city.
The couple owns a small remittance business with a largely Filipino and migrant clientele who send a portion of their wages back to their home countries. To protect themselves from the growing threat of COVID-19, the couple were wearing masks. It drew attention.
“All of a sudden another passenger yelled at them, telling them to go back to their country,” Cruz told HuffPost. “The person called my Filipino mother a ‘Chinese Coronavirus bitch’ and said that both of my parents are ‘bearers of the virus.’”
They stopped taking the BART train last week, a day shy of the lockdown in San Francisco. When Cruz asked her mother if it was OK that she shared the story with HuffPost, she agreed with one request.
“My mother wanted to clarify that this was the third racist incident she’s personally experienced or witnessed on the train in the last few weeks,” Cruz said. “My parents are now working from home, where my mother misses her clients, but not the racists on the train.”
Encounters like those experienced by Cruz’s parents have become commonplace for Asian Americans in the wake of the current global public health emergency.
Because COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, Asian Americans have been widely scapegoated, regardless of whether they’re Chinese or not. (Asian Americans ― Indonesians, Chinese, Koreans, Thai, Filipinos, and others ― aren’t a monolith, but for Americans with bigoted views, that hardly matters.)
Asian Americans of every descent are dealing not only with the virus itself, but verbal and physical violence from xenophobic neighbors. The choice to wear a mask or not is widely debated among friends and relatives ― do you wear one to protect yourself from the virus or does it draw unnecessary attention?
“Don’t be afraid to be direct. You can say something like: ‘With all the racism against Asians lately, I was wondering if anyone has treated you differently?’ Just listen and support them,” she said. “And please, don’t minimize their experience.”
Read more on HuffPost.com.