By Max Hahn 韩慕才
NANJING, CHINA — People around the world have been shocked and appalled to learn that Asian-Americans have been targeted in racially-motivated attacks over the attribution of COVID-19 to China. According to FBI statistics, these hate crimes increased 73% in 2020 – 279 in 2020, up from 161 in 2019. This increase was the fastest among all ethnic groups.
中国，南京 —— 世界上很多人对华裔美国人受到的种族歧视感到非常惊讶。根据美国FBI的统计，从2019年到2020年，针对华裔美国人的仇恨犯罪从161例增长到了279例，增长了73%。在所有种族中，针对华裔美国人的仇恨犯罪的增长是最快的。
However, media coverage on this problem has tended to be split with news regarding the injustices facing the Black community. Notwithstanding their differences, #BlackLivesMatter and #StopAsianHate have overlapping supporters, each movement rooted in the pursuit of racial justice, each occupying a similar space in the media landscape. Wanting to hear personal stories, I interviewed three Chinese-Americans with the goal of understanding how COVID-19 and anti-Asian racism have personally impacted them.
但是，考虑到同样遭受仇恨犯罪的黑人社区，媒体对于针对华裔美国人犯罪的报道是不充分的。尽管有所区别，#BlackLivesMatter 和 #StopAsianHate两个运动也有着不少相似之处： 它们有着部分相同的支持者，它们都根植于对种族正义的追求，它们也在媒体景观下有相似的位置。为了了解新冠疫情和反亚洲种族主义对华裔美国人生活的影响，我进行了如下三段采访。
I first interviewed Tom, a middle-aged waiter at a Chinese restaurant in North Jersey. My family frequented his restaurant when I was growing up, which kindled my passion for Chinese culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom felt compelled to shut down his restaurant. Many restaurant owners share his challenges, as in-person dining decreased for consecutive months. Asian restaurants in the U.S. have experienced unique decreases in customers and profit, compared to restaurants representing other ethnicities.
From 2020, COVID-19 has gotten worse, and only since vaccines emerged has COVID-19 improved slightly. During this time, what impact has COVID-19 had on your professional life?
The influence of the virus on my life has been very big. The restaurant that I had opened and ran for over 20 years closed. My life path and others’ lives have changed due to the pandemic. This has been the biggest impact on my life.
So, has the virus been the main reason for closing your restaurant? Or were there other reasons? Did you want to take it easy, or was the business losing money?
The impact of the virus on restaurants is big, because our lease ended, and this forced us to close the restaurant. If the lease hadn’t ended so soon, we would have kept the restaurant open. For over 20 years, we have had many great customers and we have a great reputation, so we could’ve at least sold the business to someone else and not lost money. But we didn’t have other options.
So mainly the virus?
What does closing the business make you feel? Is it just a job for you?
At that time, the feeling was pretty scary… there was a lot of racial discrimination, especially Trump against Asian people. And in society, there was the invasion of the U.S. capitol, so this made it feel dangerous for us. I never thought there would be this series of events.
在当时，我感到很害怕。当时种族歧视很严重，特别是Trump 所谓的 “中国病毒” “武汉病毒” , 以及入侵美国国会大厦事件。很多人给我们打电话说快点关门。这一切都让我们觉得特别危险。我从没想到会发生一系列这么严重的事情。
Do you feel it’s dangerous?
Yes, especially when the virus emerged, many Asian adults and children were discriminated against, but in New Jersey, our situation has been good, and we haven’t received much discrimination for being Asian. But I know this has occurred in New York and Pennsylvania, and I have received calls telling me not to keep the business open.
Who told you to close the business?
My friends. They called me and sent me videos of bad things and told me to close my business.
So you have not personally been discriminated against?
Personally, I have not. Our customers and you have been good, and the majority of Americans are good people. The people who discriminate are a minority amongst us.
Since you are a Chinese Immigrant, does the virus impact your willingness to stay in the U.S.? I know that your children have grown up in the U.S., but perhaps you still have family in China.
I am willing to stay in the U.S. This has not been influenced by the virus.
Because America is a country of hope. Although there have been many problems related to the virus in the U.S., America is still a country of hope. I hope America doesn’t have bad events in the future. Many people of amazing talent come to the U.S. because of the concept of the American dream, and we can keep an open-minded concept. But I don’t like anti-immigrant rhetoric from Trump, which is against the spirit of America.
What do you explain further what you mean by America is a country of hope?
This hope is related to the concept of the American Dream. Because all of the world’s talented people are attracted to the U.S. The benefit this labor immigration brings to the US is big. The American Dream also is related to how open-minded the US is. But Trump opposed immigrants and supported racial discrimination, and this was against the American spirit. I hope that in the future such an extreme time such as Trump’s presidency won’t occur again, especially during the insurrection on the U.S. capitol
Next, I interviewed Ruby, a middle-aged Chinese-American woman in Southeast Michigan. Ruby has a unique background, as she was born into a religious family in Shenyang, China, and baptized as a Catholic at a young age. Ruby is a stay-at-home mother who recently emigrated from China. Unlike Tom, who has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years, Ruby is still adapting to American culture and learning English.
Can you explain how you came to the U.S.?
I was born in Shenyang, China, and I took care of my child alone after I divorced. So I met my American husband, and my family believes that my American husband can take care of me and provide a happy life.
How did you get interested in Christianity?
My family baptized me at birth, and my husband is of the same religion as me. So it’s because of my family.
This is not typical in China.
Yes, especially since we are Catholics.
From 2020, the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. has been increasingly worse and gotten somewhat better recently.
Definitely, there has been a big impact. Because of COVID-19, U.S. visas were delayed in 2020 when I first applied. I have spent a lot of money on my visa and on travel expenses, and my family was worried. So my visa was delayed a year, and luckily the U.S. visa office called me in 2021 and gave me a visa. Overall, I waited one whole year for my visa. My husband and I are getting rather old, so all of this makes me want to stay with my husband.
I am sure many others have experienced these problems.
Many cities have issues with anti-Asian discrimination. What do you think of this, and has there been any impact on you personally?
Personally, I have experienced no impact because I live in a diverse place, and my neighbors are friendly, and I thank them. When I came to the U.S., my family was nervous because my language skills are poor. But I thank my neighbors, and I have not been discriminated against, perhaps because I am older and I don’t work or go out much.
Does COVID-19 have any impact on your willingness to stay in the U.S.?
I still want to stay in the U.S. because my husband works in a hospital, my family members are smart about COVID-19, and the people around me respect its severity. I have gotten used to living with it.
So mainly you want to stay in the U.S. because of your husband?
Yes, because my husband is here, and his family is good to me, and here I can feel the warmth of family and I feel at ease.
For my last interview, I spoke to Thomas, a former classmate of mine at the University of Michigan. He majored in Financial Mathematics and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Quantitative Finance from Carnegie Mellon.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life?
Travel. I can’t go back to China and go back to the U.S. easily, and since I just started my master’s classes, most of my classes are online and I don’t have many chances to know my professors and classmates. And most of my recruiting and networking and interviews are online. So I feel taking classes on Zoom at first was uncomfortable or unproductive.
What do you think about the Asian-American discrimination coming out of COVID-19, and has this impacted you personally?
I think COVID-19 is a virus that comes from nature, so it could start from anywhere in the world, like Ebola from Africa, so I don’t feel bad about it starting from China. And I personally haven’t received any discrimination for being Asian.
Does COVID-19 impact at all your willingness to stay in the U.S.?
To some extent, from the COVID-19 crisis, I can see how society is really divided and the government is not competent to handle the whole situation, and I am not sure how the economy will go in the long run. But because I got a job, along with my cohort, I will stay in the U.S., but maybe in three to five years we will be back in China.
有点影响，因为通过新冠疫情我能看到（美国）社会变得非常分裂, 政府没有能力处理所有的问题，我也不知道长期来看经济会怎么样。但是因为我和我的朋友们已经在美国找到了工作 ，（短期内）我还是愿意待在美国，但是三到五年后我可能要回中国。
Tom, Ruby, and Thomas all have legitimate concerns and hopes that extend beyond their immediate family. Their stories illustrate that they all want to have peaceful lives in the U.S.. Hate crimes against Chinese-Americans have been sporadic, but their impact upon the broader AAPI community has been profound.
Tom、Ruby 还有 Thomas 都有合理的担忧和希望，这些担忧和希望不仅仅关于他们的家庭。他们的故事都表明，他们想要在美国过上和平的生活。虽然针对华裔美国人的仇恨犯罪是零星的，但它们对更广泛的亚洲（AAPI) 社区的影响是广泛的。
Max Hahn is reporting from Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Max Hahn 报道于新泽西州Basking Ridge市。