The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

A Personal Reflection on Anti-Asian Discrimination in America

As Lunar New Year nears, I feel compelled to share my personal narrative as festivities begin. In spirit of these celebrations, I want to encourage mindfulness and respect for the diverse traditions associated with this joyous occasion.
A temple in Kowloon, Hong Kong, prepares for the upcoming New Year (Credit: Lonely Planet).

I was born in Manhattan, New York, in a hospital opposite the Empire State Building. Raised by first-generation immigrant parents, I have experienced countless challenges while growing up as an Asian American. Balancing my ethnicity and my American identity has always been difficult for me, and ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, hate crimes against Asian Americans have skyrocketed. People were being robbed, harassed, and even killed in racially motivated attacks. I had never been afraid for my own life until that point. When the pandemic started, I was twelve years old. I was immature and naive, and I firmly believed that America was a haven for all and that everybody could be accepted. I never knew how commonplace the usage of racial slurs was, and I didn’t even know half of them existed. I could feel the mild resentment radiating through some of my classmates, the sneaked glares, and the hushed whispering. I received hate messages for my race and culture on anonymous messaging apps. I felt so lonely and vulnerable, and for the first time in my life, I hated myself for being myself. I juggled between my race, ethnicity, and birthplace identity, and I constantly asked myself, how can I embrace every part of me and be proud of it?

Being born and raised in America for nearly my entire life, I always regarded myself as Chinese, not American. Throughout elementary school, I lovingly embraced my ethnicity. I brought Chinese food to school for lunch so that my classmates could have a bite and taste Chinese culture. In fifth grade, I asked the principal if I could host a presentation about Chinese New Year and visit different classrooms. He agreed. Up until the pandemic, I was proud and unashamed of my race. Over time, a growing reservation enveloped me. The fear of sharing my culture and ethnicity, once alien, now held me captive.

Anti-Asian discrimination is not a novel sentiment. It persists today in America and has existed since the 1840s. Sinophobia originated from the California Gold Rush in the late 1840s, when the first Chinese immigrants moved to California hoping to find new job opportunities in a country of immigrants. Once they arrived, however, life was far from what they expected. Their perceptions of America soon proved facetious, as they were herded into filthy, confined slums explicitly established for them. Americans soon felt threatened by the influx of Chinese immigrants, as fears arose surrounding the significant decrease in job opportunities for immigrants. The Americans considered the Chinese racially inferior and could not stand seeing their jobs taken up by an inferior race. In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. Believed by many to be one of the most outrageously racist actions ever taken by the U.S. government, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law restricting immigration to the states. Chinese immigrants were suddenly stopped at the gates of opportunity, now closed by the very people they toiled for.

Bat eater. Virus spreader. Slit eyes, they taunted. Each attack I read of in the news felt like a personal blow. I was scared to stand up for myself and other Asian Americans without being attacked, too.

The Asian American experience is one with many trials and tribulations. The very first Chinese immigrants to arrive in the United States were met with a reality check and horrific racism. In the 19th to 20th century, Californian Chinese workers built railroad tracks in inhumane conditions. Some were led into mountains, then trapped inside and blown up with dynamite to extend the tunnels they worked on. These atrocities have been long forgotten, and as time passed, social ideas progressed, particularly with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Since the pandemic started, xenophobic hate crimes have risen by 339%, indicating that significant racism still exists today and that the pandemic was simply an excuse for racists to lash out at innocent people. Despite this, even more Asian American activists have come under the spotlight, and such issues are being addressed with serious attitudes.

The pandemic has since ended, but I will never forget how people took advantage of COVID-19 to attack those of Asian descent. I will never forget how hurtful a racist yet nonchalant comment could be. But from painful experiences comes strength, and I’m proud of the journey to get me to where I am today.

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About the Contributor
Ashley Dong, Associate Editor
Ashley Dong is one of Guide Post’s associate editors. She is the president of the junior class and loves public speaking. She is also the captain of her club volleyball team and enjoys cooking, baking, reading the New York Times and eating mangoes.

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