With the pandemic easing in the United States, people are venturing out and shedding—along with loungewear and masks—a measure of fear. As we return to the workplace and school, the general vibe is palpably lighter. Not so among Asian Americans for whom the prospect of living more publicly has many concerned about safety.
“I am very nervous,” says Melissa Cardenas-Dow, social sciences librarian at the Sacramento campus of California State University. She’s inclined to keep working from home, because, for one, “I don’t want to walk alone in the parking lot,” she told me.
For good reason. One in 10 Asian Americans reported experiencing anti-Asian hate in the first quarter of 2021, according to AAPI Data. Verbal harassment (65 percent) and shunning (18 percent)—the deliberate avoidance of Asians—are the incidents most frequently reported, followed by physical attacks (12.6 percent), which are up this year from 2020, found Stop Asian Hate.
Children and their families are fearful, too. Only 18 percent of Asian eighth graders returned to in-person school as of April 2021, compared to 54 percent of white students.
While COVID is abating, anti-Asian sentiment remains without a cure. Fueled by “the Chinese virus” and other expressions of racial scapegoating, hate has permeated environments that comprise a major portion of our lives: school and work.