America’s Unwanted Daughter

Yellow Peril.”
The Wuhan Virus.”
The Chinese Virus.”

Chink.”
“Cough into your elbow.” (Comes closer) “I SAID COUGH INTO YOUR ELBOW!” (Repeats multiple times in a train between stations, so I cannot get out).
“Get away from me.”
– What people have directly said to me

COVID-19 is most definitely changing my experience as an Asian American. When I first wrote about the coronavirus “back in February” (so… just a month ago), I had no expectation that my life would be where it is today. (Did anyone though?) What I shared on video with USAToday had a greater impact than I thought it would – for better, for worse, for everything in between.


Starting in March and as COVID-19 started to escalate in the United States, my commute to work started to feel awkward and uncomfortable. People would move away from me, and glare at me. They didn’t need to say anything racist; I felt the racism with their eyes. “Are you sick? Are you a carrier of the coronavirus?” These were the questions that their eyes tried to pierce at me.

In Asian culture, it is a proactive measure to wear masks, but for so long in American culture, masks had an association of being negative, and perhaps still does, of automatically labeling someone as sick. Maskophobia is real, and I struggled for weeks in my decision to wear a mask or not. Did wearing a mask mark me as a target of racist attacks? Did NOT wearing a mask make me susceptible to violence? To mask or not mask, there was no clear answer. There is still no clear answer. I only started wearing a mask this past week, and I always walk quickly, shifting my gaze downwards to avoid being a victim of a hate crime.


As a result of sharing my thoughts online, I started getting so many messages from people I have met in my life, and from countless strangers as well. I am grateful to have so much support, but the hate continued to spew as well:

“Forget racism. I am so sick of people turning everything happening to racism.”
– A white person.

“Welcome to the freaking club. Here, make yourself right at home.”
– A person of color.

I unfortunately expected it from white people. The rhetoric was nothing new.

But it has been incredibly hurtful from people of color.

Here I had subscribed to the media channel where Asian people have truly “made progress”, having finally been highlighted with “Parasite” winning the Oscars, and movies like “The Farewell” changing the landscape of what it meant to be Asian American – for the non-Asian American. But these accolades and the continuation of the model minority myth (which has its own harmful effects) were quickly shoved aside by the endless headlines of the “Asian virus”, and not the “New York” virus. This isn’t my first encounter with being called “chink”, or “dirty”, or “smelly”, or being told that “Chinese people are disgusting.”

How do I even respond to, “welcome to my world”, when I’ve suffered from racism since I was a child?

What is the proper response for “welcome to the freaking club”, from another person of color?

How dare I think that the racist tropes of Chinese people, of Asian people, could not possibly make such an overwhelming comeback in my lifetime.


One comment I have been severely criticized for was,

“Yes, I am Asian, Yes, I am Chinese, and I’m really proud of that.”

I didn’t realize that by saying that I would be interpreted as supporting the Chinese government and communism (which, to be clear, I do not). After all, I just wanted to express that I was proud of my Chinese culture, and where my parents came from. Lo and behold, tons of Chinese people verbally fought each other online on this one statement alone, either denouncing the Chinese government and the evils of communism or standing by the Chinese response to this outbreak.

People interpreted “I am proud to be Chinese” as a political statement. I hated that what I said polarized and divided people. It kills me that this one statement is as divisive as saying “I am proud to be American” today. What are the “United” States anyway?


I also received so many messages about how sorry people were that I had to experience this with my students. Racism is learned behavior, and NO CHILD IS BORN RACIST. My intention was never to create a pity party, and especially not one that would further marginalize my predominantly African American, Caribbean American, and LatinX students.

How can I talk about racism without igniting further racism or marginalization? Explaining to every person that my students were not at fault, but were reinforcing learned racial stereotypes was exhausting. Yet, I continued trying to extinguish fires of misunderstanding. Did I end up actually putting out the fires, or did I simply fan the flames? Did I inadvertently pour more gasoline on the fire that seemingly divides people of color? I felt my racial fatigue continue to burden me, with no sign of an end in sight.


I can’t stop thinking about the Asian American youth. As a born and bred New Yorker, and product of the public school system, I am so disheartened when I read about the experience of Asian American children and teenagers. Katherine Oung, a Chinese-American teenager in Florida shared this experience,

“Not only do we have to be afraid about our health. But we have to be afraid about being ourselves. Class basically just started. One of the girls said all Chinese people were disgusting. And so I literally like raised my hand up and was like “I’m Chinese.” She didn’t even say sorry. She didn’t.” (Katherine Oung, New York Times).

When NYC schools were still open, Stuyvesant High School teachers penned a letter pleading for the closure of schools, citing that

“Compounding [students’] terror is the racism many of our Asian and South Asian students are experiencing as they commute to school. Not only is this a viral epidemic, it is a threat to our global mental health.” (New York Teachers, New York Times)

I went to Brooklyn Tech, another public specialized high school in NYC with thousands of students. How would 14-year-old me respond to exacerbated comments on my Chineseness and my Asianness – in AND out of school? If I am experiencing extreme discomfort as an adult, what are the almost 200,000 Asian kids in our public school system feeling? It’s horrific to imagine and I want to do something, but I don’t really know what to do. Are they voiceless, and if so, how can I help speak up for them? How do I empower them to #washthehate? What long-term effects in mental health can I possibly help in combatting on their behalf?

The feeling of helplessness as an Asian American educator is paralyzing.


I may be scared for myself, but I am truly terrified for my parents – on so many levels. My parents are senior citizens who enjoy walking outside. One of the reasons my dad immigrated to America was for cleaner air. My dad has severe asthma, and has experienced near-fatal asthma attacks a number of times in his life. I tell my parents constantly to stay home (as if I’m the parent now ha), and I’m scared that the airborne spread will infect them if they are not careful.

I am merely scared for the actual spread of the virus, but I am beyond terrified of my parents potentially being on the receiving end of a violent, racist attack. With over 650 racist acts over the last week (and those are only counting reported incidences), many of them against elderly Asian people, I can’t help but live in terror for my parents. Will they make it back from grocery shopping safe, alive, breathing, and unharmed? Will they come back from their walk commenting on the trees they saw blooming, or having been spat at by others? Will my parents have to die from the air they sought to breathe here or from the hate that we label as “freedom of speech”?

HATE is a virus that is spreading quicker than COVID-19, and I constantly wonder if my parents have already been victims, but just haven’t told me.


My mom saw the video where I shared my experiences, and hasn’t talked to me about it. Through my brother, I found out that she wished I hadn’t said anything. She fears for my safety, and is afraid it marked me as a target.

A few days ago, I received these posts on my personal Facebook wall:

“Just saw your video how you were like I am proud to be a Chinese well then fuck you because you guys have put everyone in danger if you love your country so much ask them to be hygienic stop eating bats snakes rats because it’s easy to say you love your country but stand up for what is right or wrong and I f****** hate china and Chinese people.”

“I am against racism but then you guys are just acting like nothing happened look at the world around you and your country did this.”

… What?!

I literally felt frozen, and unable to physically move. My mind went completely blank. This personal attack cut me, even though I tend to pride myself as someone who doesn’t mind the thoughts of others.

My friends reported both comments as hate speech (fun fact: I am not able to do that even though it is my personal Facebook). The first one was removed. The second one wasn’t, and still lives on my Facebook wall. I guess microaggressions aren’t considered “hate speech enough“.

People apologized to me for having to experience this. “That guy is stupid and doesn’t know what he is talking about!”

Oh, by the way, the person who wrote that is a woman of color.


When people ask me “How are you?” I’m truly uncertain how to respond. Do I say yes to make you feel better? Do I say yes to mask my incoherent mind and thoughts? Do I say yes and wear an actual physical mask?

Or do I say no and make you privy to all that I am thinking and feeling? Does saying no make you feel sorry for me? Does saying no make you feel pessimistic instead of wanting to be optimistic in this time? Does saying no make me selfish?

How am I?

I am incoherent.

I am still uncertain if I should wear a mask or not, even though I have currently decided that I should.

I am apprehensive of writing, recording, and sharing my thoughts because I do not want to further divide people, or add fuel to the racism that exists.

I am wary of everyone around me because of my Chinese face.

I am nervous for our Asian American youth.

I am terrified for my parents’ lives. For all Asians and Asian Americans’ lives.

I am worried for my own students in this time, who are facing an extreme number of inequities – if the inequities can even be counted.

I am skeptical of the media’s portrayal of COVID-19 for likes, subscribes, and follows, and not for spreading TRUTH.

I am uncertain if my friends who are healthcare workers will survive.

I am alarmed by people who continue to commit sinophobic acts of prejudice – verbal, physical, violent, all of the acts.

I am afraid that people will stop caring about violence against Asian Americans, and Asians around the world.

I am America’s unwanted daughter. Raised here, I live and breathe my freedom of speech, but it is undesired, unwanted, and HATED. I am hated.

My mom wishes I would just stay quiet.

But I can’t. And I won’t.

Tired of Being Asian

I am a proud Asian American, a proud Chinese American, first generation raised in America, first to go to college and earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s, currently pursuing my doctorate, and just truly so proud of my culture and who I am. To many, and hopefully my family and in some ways even myself, I am the epitome of the American dream.

This is sadly not about that.

I want to detail what it has felt like to be an Asian person in America since the outbreak of coronavirus.

Imagine the first time hearing about the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan leading up to Lunar New Year, THE biggest holiday in China. As someone with a majority of my extended family in mainland China, the first thoughts are worry, concern, and just a hope that everyone is okay. As Lunar New Year occurred, my extended family in Shanghai didn’t even all meet up on this big holiday – the first Lunar New Year since my grandmother has passed. It was supposed to be a momentous one, one of continued life of the younger generations. Instead, all WeChat conversations that I was a part of focused on this spread of this virus, the travel bans in and outside of China, and warnings amongst family members to stay indoors as much as possible. Better safe than sorry – I get it. In fact, my paranoid self even wanted to stay away from Chinatown at first. How ridiculous a thought and action I upheld, until I realized the suffering of Asian businesses because of sinophobia.

It was only a conversation I heard about amongst my Asian/Asian American community until the first confirmed case occurred in the United States. Immediately, my newsfeeds on Facebook and Instagram were flooded with warnings to get protective health masks to try to prevent its spread. I immediately googled the effectiveness of health masks to mixed results – but I also wanted to be proactive and safe, for myself and my family. By the time I went to a pharmacy, I had found out that all health masks were sold out EVERYWHEREincluding on Amazon. I shrugged it off and figured the paranoia and “proactivity” would blow over – but the masks never restocked.

As days and weeks started to pass by, I started to read about racist attacks against Asian Americans and then the experiences people were having in NYC. People with Asian-sounding last names not being picked up for Ubers, racist slurs being targeted toward any Asian people who would cough on a subway, and people moving away from any Asians with a face mask on (which by the way, is seen as a proactive measure in East Asian countries and preferred, as opposed to a reactive, “I am sick” statement as it is received in the West). It was so disappointing to hear, but became even more disheartening when I started to read personal experiences of people I personally knew post what happened to them on their social media.

But it didn’t hit me fully until this week at my school, I had heard rumors spread about the possibility of me having the coronavirus. I immediately felt truly more heated than I thought I would, even though I knew it was because of the spread of misinformation and the association of the virus with “Asian-ness”. I ended up addressing the coronavirus with my elementary school students (for now) as follows:

  • There are things that you hear that are false and things that you hear that are true.

  • Not all news is factual – there are some things on the news that are false and some that are true.

  • It is hurtful when I hear that some students have been saying I have the coronavirus because it is false. There is no evidence to support this claim. Just because I look like a group of people who are primarily affected by this virus, does not mean I have it. Yes, I recognize that I am Asian/Chinese, but if you are thinking that I have it simply based on the way I look, it is an unfair assumption.

  • It is even more hurtful if you heard someone say it, and you either laughed at it, or affirmed that this may be true. This is perpetuating misinformation.

  • I am similarly reading information about the coronavirus on the news and am fine to have a discussion or debate about what we hear based on what we know.

  • I sincerely hope that any students who may have said something, laughed/affirmed something that was said about me having it, or even THOUGHT about it takes the time to reflect on their thinking. I do hope to hear some apologies without personally requesting them from any students just because they feel that they need to.

  • If there are any questions you have about my Asian-ness or Chinese-ness, please ask instead of assuming.

I was really proud of this response (because it took a lot of my own personal self to talk out), and I was also grateful to hear students come up to me personally to apologize on their own accord for either saying, laughing at, or bystanding in the situation. But I also knew that just because I addressed it with some students, it wasn’t the end of this and I had more to do as a teacher.

As recently as three days ago, the NYC Department of Education issued a letter about Coronavirus to all employees citywide. Imagine my shock when online, in NYC teacher forums, educators were joking about the GREATER likelihood of school shutting down for the coronavirus than for snow days. Imagine my further dismay reading non-Chinese, fellow educators make casual comments about the coronavirus that either furthered the paranoia of its spread, or helped continue the underlying racist attacks that so many news outlets are insinuating. Imagine my insides cringe at stepping into spaces where the coronavirus is joked about, and others laughing about it. Imagine my anger finding out that my friends who are Asian American educators as well have had to hear children utter racist comments that equate the coronavirus to Asianness, and also hearing that so many schools have not been proactive in addressing – some even going to lengths to avoid these difficult, necessary conversations. It has been infuriating.

All at the same time, in this past week, I have received more racist comments than I remember receiving in a long time. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I was either walking or on the subway, coughed (because of asthma, not because of me being sick, and COVERING my cough), and having one or a combination of the following reactions:

  • People giving that cold, harsh, eyes-of-caution stare
  • People literally telling me to cover my cough multiple times (even though I have)
  • People moving immediately away from me
  • People muttering unkind, racist slurs under their breath (but just audible enough for me to hear)

I have turned the volume up so high on my headphones this week while going about my life because I cannot bear to hear, read, or experience anything further. I am so tired of social media because all I read about is the coronavirus, and this is so unfortunate because there are people who are truly affected by this virus in their health, and I cannot focus on the facts, because there is too much racism between the lines.

I want to be invisible and LOUD ABOUT THIS simultaneously. I want to help create a change in perception, for my students, for my community, but I have felt so RACIALLY FATIGUED, a term my friend explained to me this week. According to Critical Race Theorist William Smith, racial battle fatigue (RBF) is a

“public health ad mental health illness [based on the] cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals” (Smith, 2008).

According to Smith (2008), racial battle fatigue stems from racism and microaggressions and to find these in society today, “one must not look for the gross and obvious…. but the subtle, cumulative miniassault is the substance of today’s racism” (Smith, 2008).

Racial microaggressions are a form of psychological warfare and are defined as:

1) subtle verbal and nonverbal insults directed at people of Color, often automatically or unconsciously

2) layered insults, based on one’s race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname

3) cumulative insults, which cause unnecessary stress to people of Color while privileging whites.

(Smith, 2008).

I can’t feel like I constantly have to stand up for my race and explain my Asianness – non-Asian, non-Chinese people need to STAND UP also.

“We must go beyond educating students about basic infectious disease prevention, such as hand washing. We must also address the growing stereotyping, racism and discrimination that pose long-term threats to our health, economy, and individual and collective psyches” (Torres and Cao, 2020).

Words matter. Actions matter.

Words hurt. Actions hurt.

I am so proud to be Asian American, but I am so tired of being Asian American.