HomeCampusTeens Talk About Anti-Asian Hate

Teens Talk About Anti-Asian Hate

Photo by James Kong

By Barbara Yau, AsAmNews Staff Writer

If you are a mom to teens like me, you know that it can be quite a feat to grab their attention for more than a few minutes at a time, or even get any meaningful details about their day without it ending up being a game of 20 questions. So, when it comes to discussing more serious matters, such as the growing anti-Asian hate and violence in our communities, it may be challenging for parents to get a good sense of what they are thinking and feeling on a deeper level.

To gain better perspective, AsAmNews interviewed nine Asian American teenagers from across the country to get them to talk frankly about the surge of anti-Asian attacks, how it has personally affected them, and what they believe can be done to help stop Asian hate.

Gregory Lee, age 15

Public School Student, Menlo Park, CA.

“The anti-Asian hate attacks are quite troubling and make me question the integrity and morality of Americans. Personally, these attacks have not affected my day to day life, nor have they affected myself going outside or back to school. I do realize that I may be in a minority here, so I feel lucky. As of now, I am not afraid of being bullied or attacked because I am Asian, but I am definitely more aware and untrusting towards the public. Unfortunately, I do not think stopping Asian hate or really any type of hate is possible, as there will always be people who are unaccepting or scared of outsiders. The best we can do is bring attention to the problem and try to fix issues in our local communities in order to enact widespread change and allow Asians to feel safe. I find it frustrating that people always find scapegoats for their problems instead of facing their issues head-on. The adults of this world should not act like young children who have a simplistic and childish vendetta against people who haven’t done anything directly to them.”

Justine Schulke, age 15

Private School Student, New York City

“People may think that Anti-Asian violence started because of the coronavirus — since it originated in China — but racism against Asians Americans has existed in our country for years. Though I’ve never experienced anti-Asian racism directly, I’ve consumed the recent attacks through the media and from my family’s experiences. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement shed light on how systematic racism exists, and has always existed, in our country. I’m not surprised to know something like hate crimes are now skyrocketing against the Asian community, but it’s frustrating to see how so many people continue to be so ignorant and heinous, hating and abusing our elders for something they haven’t done. There are notions that Asians aren’t truly American. Asians are associated with exoticity, which makes Asians seem foreign. The news of these attacks have not had a significant effect on my day to day life, but I now carry a keychain with an alarm just in case, and I’m not allowed to take the subway. I feel extremely safe at school. My school has been implementing many conversations on race, racism and what we need to do as a school and community to be anti-racist. Our summer reading homework of 2020 was to read Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. However, in public, there is a subconscious thought in the back of my head whether I might be the next Asian American involved in a hate crime. I think the first step to stopping the hate is to acknowledge that there are hate crimes happening against the Asian community. Secondly, we need to address this issue to the school, or if you’re uncomfortable, to spread awareness on social media and to your friends. Further, we should talk about these violent attacks within the school community, at a workplace, or wherever you are to denounce anti-Asian racism. Finally, we need to get involved, whether that be attending protests, handing out fliers, supporting Asian owned businesses, reporting hate crimes, condemning hate, and combating the prejudice and bigotry of the connection between Asians and Covid-19.”

Megan Kwan, age 16 years old

Public School Student, Framingham, M.A.

“I’m absolutely disgusted by recent attacks on Asian Americans. Why is it that murder needs to occur before the world recognizes the discrimination against Asians every day? I hate how people are excusing their actions with trivial excuses. I hate how people are just now trying to stop the hate. Although support is always welcome, it should not have had to take death to finally get the media’s attention and for people to realize just how normalized these attacks are. I fear for the safety of my family and others. I should not be scared that my grandmother might get beaten every time she goes to Chinatown, or that my sister will be called racist names when she goes back to school. Fear is just the beginning of it. It also affects me due to the media attention it’s received recently. Everywhere I see people arguing online because someone is so uneducated that they believe it is called the ‘Chinese virus’ because it’s from China. I want people to stand up for Asians because they recognize that we are being harassed and assaulted. I want them to realize that asking if someone has eaten a dog before is just as racist and harmful as the attacks you see on the news. I am scared of what would happen at school. Although I’ve never experienced bullying before, I’m deathly afraid of the harassment I might receive if I go back. Before Corona, there were multiple instances of racism at my school, and I fully believe that it would increase. Such as people only grouping me with Asians because we’re the same, people telling me I have small eyes, people mocking my food, asking if I eat dogs, etc. I’m not very strong or athletic, so If I was attacked I would have no way of defending myself which is incredibly scary considering I walked home from school alone each day last year. I believe that we need to teach the next generation that any type of racism is offensive and should not be normalized. I’ve had many experiences that most minorities can relate to, not just Asians. Most notably bringing a school lunch, in which one brings a school lunch of food usually from their culture. That’s when all the other kids gather around to stare and criticize the way it smells or looks. Almost every minority I’ve met has experienced this, and it should be stopped. Just because it doesn’t look ‘American’ doesn’t mean it isn’t normal in any way. Another thing that needs to change is stereotypes. Not all Asians are smart, good at math, play the violin, grow up to be a doctor, or are bad drivers. We’ve achieved the status of ‘good’ minorities who don’t cause trouble and are smart reliable citizens. In Washington, they even changed our status from a minority to White. I am not Caucasian so do not compare me to one as if it were a compliment. Being Asian is part of my identity and by you taking that away from me is racism in its greatest form.”

Olivia Quan, age 13

Public Charter School Student, Framingham, M.A.

“I know about all of the Asian hate crimes that have been going around, and I know for a fact that it’s serious and hurtful to many. I unfortunately have experienced Asian hate. This was before the whole lockdown thing. My teachers were wiping down all of our desks, and a boy shouted in the class something along the lines of ‘You should clean Olivia because she’s Asian so she has corona.’ Sometimes, I do feel afraid if I get bullied at school as an Asian. I know it could help if people are educated about what Asian hate is about and how it affects people. Or people need to learn how not to be a jerk.” 

Jack C., age 13

Public School Student, Glencoe, Illinois

“I have heard of the attacks going on for Asian hate. This is a problem that has to be stopped. Similar to attacks on African American people, this is a big problem and doesn’t reflect well for the U.S, especially when we are the ‘Land of the Free.’ It’s not just bad for Asian Americans, but also for the entire United States because it impacts what other people think of our country. The attacks have not affected my life a lot. I live in a small town, so I know a lot of people in my town. I don’t get afraid of being bullied, because my school has generally been accepting, and I know I have friends that would stand with me. I also don’t go outside of my town a lot because of Covid. Educating can help stop Asian hate, as well as hate for other minorities and groups. Though it is nearly impossible for everybody to be anti-racist, we can help some people not be racist by educating them about racism. Just like people say we should learn about WWII or any other historical event to not repeat our mistakes, if we learn about racism, we can help not repeat mistakes in our society.”

Olivia Wong, age 17

Public School Student, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

“I am aware of the growing violence against Asian Americans, and I feel so disheartened that this is what’s happening in our country. It feels as if there are so many divisions separating people in a nation that is supposed to be united. During a pandemic where so many have been suffering all over the world for a year now, Asians have been wrongly scapegoated, and as a result, innocent people are being attacked, especially the elderly. Fortunately, I have not encountered firsthand any verbal or physical assaults due to my race at school or around the neighborhood. However, there are people I know who do not know the extent of their words and make jokes at the expense of others, repeating phrases like ‘the Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung Flu.’ Not only does this rhetoric harm victims’ mental health, but it also leads to more serious issues when it turns out that those words weren’t just joking. It is understandable that people have feelings of frustration and fear, but it is unacceptable when they choose to take them out on Asian Americans. My entire family is also passionate about this lingering issue. My parents have gotten stares and have been yelled at while shopping or taking a walk, and one of my brothers was on the receiving end of a terrible verbal assault while working in a grocery store over the summer. I have not been restricted in going out, but I am on high alert to watch for my surroundings. I feel safe in my school because the faculty promotes inclusion, fosters conversations, and is not afraid of educating us on current social and political issues. I am not afraid for myself, but more for my own grandparents since the majority of attacks have targeted the elderly. If we want change, we must continue to speak out because these attacks are not stopping anytime soon. We have a responsibility to not stay silent in order to educate our fellow Americans on the strength of their words and the power of their actions. If we do our part, more and more people will become aware of our situation and begin to actively learn about the ongoing virus of racism.” 

Hannah, age 15

Public School Student, Massachusetts 

“Ever since COVID started, I had already noticed the uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans and how they mostly went unnoticed with the news barely covering these attacks. It made me terrified to go outside for a walk or to get groceries with my family being fully aware that I could easily get caught up in one of those events. The growing news and coverage over the last year of these attacks has made me pretty self-conscious about every little thing I do. Every time I’m out somewhere public or in school, I feel like I’m being judged every step I take, and it’s agonizing. Before I went back to school, I do specifically remember talking to my mom about how I was scared that someone was going to bully me at school or say something passive-aggressive and that in the end I wouldn’t know how to react. I still feel that way. Whenever someone is whispering to someone else or staring at me in public or at school, I think the worst. I think that they’re making a snide remark about my race and it makes me anxious. In my opinion, I know it’s impossible to completely stop racism, but we can start by not blaming a single race for everything that’s going on now. It’s just not right.” 

Alexis Quan, age 18

Public School Student, Framingham, M.A.

“I am aware of the anti-Asian attacks that have been going on the news more recently and when COVID-19 first struck. I do not like seeing the acts of violence and hearing of the verbal tirades someone says against the Asian community. It makes me feel disturbed that people are going out of their way to harm others simply of the color of their skin. It makes me feel unsafe. I’d rather not have to go outside and deal with someone yelling at me for ‘carrying the virus’ when I have my mask on and they do not. I am not afraid of being bullied at school. I have a good support system of friends there who I know will stand up for me. In the beginning of the pandemic, I was afraid that some people would do the classic ‘Go back to China!’ — despite the fact I have never left this continent — and make racist comments about me. Now, when I am out in public, I am just wary of others. If someone looks tense or they keep staring at me, I leave and walk away. I do not want to anger them and drive them to violence. To stop the spread of Asian hate, I would stop or prevent news outlets/sources, as well as people with political power, from saying degrading and derogatory language against Asian Americans. I feel that ex-President Donald Trump made situations worse by pinning the blame on China for not being able to contain the virus. He called it the ‘Chinese Virus,’ furthering his followers’ dislike against China. It seems that some people took this response as an ‘OK’ to use hate speech and even commit hate crimes. I would tell people to check their news sources. Is what they are getting actually verified and reliable information? To lessen people’s fears, don’t give into the hate. Just because someone is of Chinese or Asian descent, does not mean they automatically have the virus; that is not how this virus works. Do not be afraid as long as you are wearing a mask and are performing safe behaviors when outside. I would also tell people and educate them using social media posts. Teens are more reachable when facts are in short, colorful blurbs. They can then repost the article on their social media accounts.” 

Benjamin C., age 16

Public School Student, Chicago Suburb

“I am aware of the anti-Asian hate attacks and the incitement that is occurring in America today. The constant cycle of violence is disgusting. I am lucky to live where these attacks do not affect my daily life much, at least not to the extent of others. It has not changed going back to school in person. The attacks have definitely impacted my family, but luckily not our day to day life, and we are still able to do much of the things we used to. I’m not afraid of being bullied for being Asian, but it is definitely present. People need to change their biases and think about the situation in another’s shoes. The attacks are a result of the lack of compassion, education, misinformation, coupled with a plethora of other reasons, and we should tackle the issue head on instead of pushing it to the side.”

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