Our Year of Living Dangerously | Ji

Xenophobia in Our Time

By Chao Ji 21M
Ji is an alumna of Emory School of Medicine and is a medical resident at Brown University. 

When I think of COVID-19, the first things that come to mind are dyspnea and xenophobia. While I am sure a talented writer can string together an extended metaphor for the two, I will just focus on the rampant xenophobia that is happening all across the world. It’s disgusting and disturbing. Every day, my newsfeed is flooded with videos of Asians getting verbally and physically abused. Months ago, when the outbreak was largely confined to Wuhan, a video surfaced on the internet showing an East Asian tourist frantically running across a busy highway after his taxi driver kicked him out. He was mocked and filmed as people on mopeds sped past him, holding shirts and scarves across their faces. Not long ago, a Burmese family was stabbed at a local grocery store for being Asian. Recently, NYPD started investigating a mass shooting threat against Asians. Apparently, an Instagram user had posted their intentions of shooting every Asian they come across in NYC Chinatown. The user believes that is the only way to rid NYC of COVID. I have never been more aware of my ethnicity and appearance than now. Should I wear a hood when I go outside? I now feel myself profiling people who walk  past me in grocery stores. Will they say something racist? What if they attack me? Should I kick them where it hurts? Maybe this is what my relatives in China meant when they told me I will always be considered a foreigner in the states. I had brushed aside their comment, thinking they were overly proud of their heritage, and reminded them that I am also considered a foreigner in China. However, maybe deep down, I share their sentiment. Maybe that is why I have always been reluctant to give up my Singapore citizenship. At least in Singapore, my race and ethnicity are not regarded as viruses.