Being Asian-American during COVID-19 pandemic stirs old fears

As hate crimes against Asian Americans reach an all time high, Rachael Kim ruminates on her experiences growing up.



Hate Crimes against Asian Americans are up by 164 percent in 16 major U.S. cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino.

As an Asian-American, I have experienced a great amount of racism and bullying growing up. As these hate crimes toward the Asian community continue, I fear walking down the street and being attacked or harmed based on the way that I look. Now there is a constant reminder that I’m in danger. Ever since I was little, I was constantly reminded that I looked different from the other kids in my class. There have been times when I would talk to my mom in Korean and get stared at or called out for not speaking English. 

The recent increase in Asian hate stems from a view that  Asians  “caused” the Coronavirus because of its origin in China. Nearly a year after the nation went on lockdown, on March 16, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia a series of mass shootings occurred at three spa parlors. A total of eight people were killed, six being Asian women.

In elementary school, I would get bullied for looking “different.” Now that I am older, I have grown to realize that even though “All men are created equal,” not everyone is treated equally. The basic Asian stereotypes of being smart or “not being able to see” were the main things I was bullied over. I was expected to know all the math answers or be automatically smart because I was Asian. Another stereotype I was bullied for was “eating dog.” Even though some people in Asia may cook and eat wild dogs, it doesn’t mean that just because I am Asian, I should too. There is a multitude of racist and incorrect stereotypes associated with being Asian and growing up, I was faced with most.

I was born and raised in Florida; I never had any heavy accents or didn’t understand a conversation. The only thing that made me different was how I looked, and that alone was enough to be treated with disrespect and humiliation. 

Recent NBC News data has shown that 503 incidents have happened in 2021 alone. Verbal harassment being 68 percent and more than 11 percent being physical assault. Asian-Americans have always been a target of racism and discrimination, but the recent pandemic has given people another “excuse” to target those of  Asian descent. 

In middle school and high school, most kids are mature enough to not bully off race, but every once in a while I would hear a joke about being smart or not being able to see. I always would laugh with them, because it no longer affects me, but over time you wish that you didn’t look different and were able to live without all the “jokes” and racist remarks. With everything that has happened this year, I wanted to speak up. 

Due to the constant violence and discrimination against Asians and other races, APABA (Asian Pacific American Bar Association) recently held a series of Zoom conferences discussing what to do as a bystander who experiences a violent scenario. Unfortunately, I am aware that even when the pandemic slowly starts to normalize, racism and discrimination will always be prominent.

As the current acts of hate dissipate, society can return to the “normal” discrimination towards Asian Americans.