John Xu ’22
On March 16, six Asian-American women were ruthlessly murdered in a shooting rampage across three Atlanta-area Asian spas. The perpetrator, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, claimed to have suffered a “sexual addiction.” Atlanta’s police chief cited the shooter as “having a bad day,” and lawmakers refused to consider the incident a hate crime. Melody Howe ‘22 said, “It is saddening that the ‘bad day’ got the best of most of America and this hate-crime shooting was somewhat ignored.”
However, this was not unexpected.
61-year-old Noel Quintana was slashed in the face with a box-cutter unprompted; 76-year-old Chinese grandmother Xiao Zhen Xie had to fight off a 39-year-old attacker with a wooden stick. These are only a couple of the countless anti-Asian hate crimes that have occurred this past year in the United States.
In light of the pandemic, anti-Asian racism and xenophobia have become more visible. The hateful sentiments directed towards Asians were caused by the scapegoating of Chinese people for COVID-19, a situation largely exacerbated by former president Donald Trump, who carelessly toyed with racist remarks such as “the Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu.”
For his Quinn-Ferguson project, Hatton Tong ‘21 conducted a survey of current Asian-identifying students at Mercersburg. Respondents were asked to rank from 1-10 whether they felt safe as Asian people in the United States before and during the pandemic. The average score was 8.5 and 5.4, respectively. Tong was “not surprised by the survey results at all.” Anti-Asian discrimination has always been ubiquitous, and Mercersburg’s Asian students are no less susceptible to hate. Michelle Feng ‘22 said, “I have faced microaggression and racism that were ‘sugar-coated’ as funny jokes. When the pandemic gave people a good ‘reason’ to justify their hate…their behaviors became ruthless.” Over 50 percent of the respondents reported having encountered racial discrimination outside of school, and about 30 percent reported having encountered racial discrimination at Mercersburg.
Is Mercersburg providing enough support for Asian students during the pandemic? Last spring break, Terrance Ji ‘22 could not return to China when his flight was canceled due to travel restrictions. “Mercersburg did an amazing job accommodating the students who stayed on campus over spring break last year. They provided meals and arranged all kinds of activities,” Ji recalled fondly. Joie Xiao ‘22 said, “My teachers have done an excellent job of accommodating international Asian students during virtual learning; however, I don’t think the school has done enough to address xenophobia and racism towards Asians during the pandemic.” Stanley Fang ‘21 said, “I have not personally experienced discrimination during the pandemic; however, the recent shooting in Atlanta has affected how I perceive my identity as an Asian and that more needs to be done for Asians in the United States.”
Joyce Cui ‘22 said, “Mercersburg not only failed to show support for the Asian community, but also failed to educate its students about what some of their classmates might be going through. I think this is what hurts our community the most.” The respondents of Tong’s survey addressed similar concerns. An anonymous student said, “As we did for the BLM movement, we need to address this issue on [the] schoolwide scale. We deserve the same attention.” Tong said, “I hope the school will be able to listen to their Asian students and strive for change.”
Though the students’ voices differ, all agree that more can be done to support Asian students at Mercersburg. Xiao encourages students to “engage in activities and conversations that have to come during the Asian and Pacific-Islander heritage month.” Howe, who engages in activism on social media, observed, “There are too many that do not work for change.” She urges Asian students to be brave enough to break the silence.
Hate, like COVID-19, sees no borders. Anyone, regardless of the color of their skin, can be discriminated against. All people should stand in solidarity with the Asian community–at Mercersburg and beyond–to stop the virus of hate from spreading.
Noel Quintana, revealing his scar, speaks out against anti-Asian discrimination. Source: GoFundMe