*Author’s note: I wrote this post a year ago to the month in response to the rising rate of anti-Asian racism and violence, and it is maddening how much worse it has become. This year, we have seen the violence toward our elders and the massacre of eight people in Atlanta, six of them being Asian American women, and we are crying out. The post has been updated to reflect current circumstances.*
I can feel my voice getting louder as the white family passes us by, my words coming out more crisply and clearly than I normally would talk. I can’t control the instinctual reaction of my body when there’s even the slightest chance I might be perceived as “one of them.” I’m not other or foreign (I was born here in California), but with the way Asian Americans are being treated in light of COVID-19, I can’t help but feel labeled as dirty, sick, a virus — the virus.
I enunciate my words and speak just loudly enough to be heard because I want everyone who walks by and gives us even the slightest of second glances to know that I’m American, just like them. I want them to know that being Asian American doesn’t make me more susceptible to getting sick. It’s knowing this disease is being used against people who look like me that gets me sick.
Asian Americans are being spat on, beaten down, harassed, bullied, and killed. Asian-owned restaurants and businesses have been avoided or targeted. On top of the fear and stress we all carry concerning the health and safety of our loved ones because of COVID, racism and violence against Asian Americans add another layer to the anxiety, and we are weary.
I used to find the tiniest bit of relief when quarantine meant staying home and avoiding the possibility that my parents, my in-laws, my siblings, my children, my husband, and I would avoid the chance of being the next victim of hatred and violence. But the former president set a path of anti-Asian sentiment when he’d refer to COVID as “the Chinese virus” or “kung flu.” Words can be wielded for good or for harm, and those were not neutral words. Those were words that have stoked fear and ended lives, and we bear the scars of that harmful rhetoric.
I find relief and solidarity as I lament with other women of color. I’m comforted and held by the text messages, email prayer threads, and Venmo offers for coffee and meals sent by friends. I’m strengthened by the voices of our diverse Asian American community that are calling out, singing out, and protesting online and in person. We share the collective toll this is taking on our souls, but will others be able to see it too?
I write this knowing some won’t understand, that some will deny the racism and violence we’re experiencing, that others will be silent while waiting for “all the facts to come out.” And yet, I have to write this because the more we become aware, the more we listen and try to understand each other’s experiences and stories, the more we recognize the humanity in one another. Perhaps when we do, we’ll learn to think twice before we speak and act, before we mistreat someone who looks or acts differently from us, before we categorize people as “less than” in our hearts, minds, with our words, and with our policies.
I’ve been ruminating on how Jesus looked at people with compassion — people who were distressed and sick, people who were unclean and dying, people who were stubborn and naive and didn’t understand Him.
I imagine what His eyes of compassion looked like, and the face of a Middle Eastern man with brown skin and brown eyes comes to mind. He looks at the crowd, at the rich young ruler, at the woman whose son has died, and His eyes soften. I imagine Him on the cross looking at John and His beloved mother, love spilling over for His people in His last breaths, and His eyes soften. He sees their pain and grief, their hunger, their blindness — both physical and spiritual. He sees their humanity, and His love for them changes the way He looks at them.
In a time when everything feels out of control and isolating, when fear and anxiety rule our hearts and cause panic and pain for others, I become overwhelmed and all my words seem useless. But like clay in my hands, I shape them into crude prayers — Lord, please. Help. Heal. Have mercy.
I pray for those who have been hurt by the silence and gaslighting from friends and the church. I pray for those who are living in overwhelming anxiety and depression while struggling with loneliness. I pray for those who are unheard and further silenced by those who continue to erase our stories and pain. I pray for those who are sick and dying from COVID, for the ones grieving the death of loved ones due to gun violence. I pray for those who are struggling financially and won’t be able to recover from the hardships brought on by the pandemic. My prayers come out in tears, while lying awake in bed, while kneading dough to make bread, while playing with my children at home, while reading updates on the news.
I pray for eyes of compassion that lead to justice, that will cause stubborn hearts to mourn with those who mourn, and for our lives to look more like Jesus’ when He lived on earth as human — absorbing the pain of others, overturning the tables of the greedy, making seen the outcast, welcoming the foreigner, comforting the lonely, exposing the systems that are broken and in need of redemption. I pray we come out of this intense and exhausting time more aware, tender, and with a clearer vision for how to be human.Leave a Comment