March 27, 2020
This article is part of a special series covering the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19.
My last semester of college started like every other semester: go to class, enjoy syllabus week, reunite with my friends and classmates and professors, settle back into my grind. My plate was pretty full between job applications, publishing institute applications, and of course, five classes on top of three jobs and two clubs. I had heard of, and been talking about, COVID-19 for a little bit, but it wasn’t considered a problem in the United States yet.
However, this threat weighed much heavier on my mind than some other Americans. As an Asian American woman who is an executive board member of the large Asian American student group on Michigan State University’s campus, this issue came to the forefront of my life well before spring break.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has led to a spike in violence against Asians and Asian Americans. Because the virus originated in Wuhan, China, many people incorrectly assume that the virus is directly linked to not only Chinese people but Asians broadly. These attacks on Asians and Asian Americans range from anywhere to verbal assaults to not shaking hands (in the earlier days) to vicious beatings.
These racist transgressions are further exacerbated by President Trump repeatedly calling COVID-19 the “China virus,” though he has since stopped doing so. His ignorance and willful usage of this term feeds directly into the growing hatred some harbor against Asians, and he was rightfully called out by many people, including celebrities, politicians and journalists.
The increasing risk for my own safety made me worried to simply go to class. When I got a runny nose accompanied by a cough from my spring allergies, I prayed something wouldn’t happen to me. While I understand the severity of the pandemic — I’ve been social distancing for weeks now — I have racial profiling to add to my list of worries during this stressful time. How am I supposed to finish the semester on top of my game like I was supposed to if I’m worried about being physically harmed every time I leave my apartment?
I am thankful to have my family and people in my inner circle whom I’ve socially distanced with who fully support me. I feel safe with the people I live with, and though I’m not able to see my family, I know they’re here for me when I need it. During these times, it’s extremely important to build community, and this racism is certainly something that will tear us apart if we let it.
Sophie Schmidt is an avid reader and activist who wants to work with stories for the rest of her life. To pursue this, she’s studying Professional Writing and has a minor in Asian Pacific American studies. When she’s not in class, Sophie can be found cuddled up reading a good book with her cats.