Title: The Real Dangers of COVID-19
COVID-19 takes another life in Victoria confirmed-.
She switches the television off.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Australia have exceeded 2000-.
She lowers the volume of the car radio.
Victoria’s COVID-19 crisis rises to-.
She throws her phone on the bed, and when I ask her what’s wrong, she looks at me and sighs. In a time of fear and vulnerability, hysteria paves way for racism against East Asian Australians.
On the 28th of January, an elderly Asian man who collapsed of a suspected cardiac arrest was left to die, watched by reluctant bystanders considering the dangers of performing CPR. On the 20th March, an Asian student wearing a face mask sat on the ground with a black eye and broken glasses, ears ringing with the words ‘go back to your country’ repeating in his head.
Her Father sighs in frustration, standing across yet another set of empty tables at his restaurant. Her mother puts her hand on his shoulder, a small gesture of comfort. As she watches from behind, I comfort her the same way in an attempt to convince her that not everyone is disgusted.
But she doesn’t seem to notice as she scrubs at her hands under hot water until pale skin burns pink. She washes them for twenty seconds and then washes them some more. Soap suds drip from the tips of her fingers as she walks across me. She smells like hand sanitiser and Dettol, hiding her face behind a mask and wearing gloves to prove to strangers she walks past, that she is clean.
On Facebook, she shows me the video compilations of Asian people eating bats. The illegal wet market trades of exotic animals. Reading strangers’ comments telling people like her to go back to where she came from or to stay away from people like her. She tells me she felt like she was seeing herself on that screen. That she feels upset. Embarrassed. Angry.
All of a sudden when she sees herself in the mirror, she’s insecure over her monolid eyes. Her sleek dark hair. Her accent.
The nervous glances or sudden hesitation to walk past her don’t go unnoticed. Fuck you, the crease in her eyebrows would say, but the redness in her cheeks portray embarrassment. Nervousness from the fear of awaiting the snarky comment or the slap in the face.
There is no doubt that many of us are terrified of the unknown. A virus which leaves doctors shrugging shoulders and shaking heads paves way for news outlets to strike. Like a lion crawling behind its’ prey, new cases and updates about the virus are grabbed at and spread all over social media. Statistics of deaths and the infected leave many glued to their television day and night in fear of whether they’ll be next.
Many are left vulnerable to the exposure of COVID-19, but many forget that there are people who are also vulnerable to the exposure of hate. It seems as though anyone who can pull off the description of an Asian Australian becomes victim to racism. While many of us continue to keep our distance and self-isolate, to stand up against discrimination remains essential.
A smile and a few kind words to remind the Asian Australian near you who is probably twice as paranoid or insecure to cough or sneeze is enough to confirm that they are still welcomed. Loved. Appreciated.
COVID-19 is not an excuse to be xenophobic in a time of crisis.