It could have been me: Violence and Asian bias

Lily vacationing with friends and family in South Carolina

Sometimes feelings stay with you no matter how irrational they may seem to yourself or to other people. 

I feel like, at this point, everyone knows I’ve been nervous about how non-Asian people will perceive and react to me during this pandemic. 

I’ve been told to “go back to China” before this pandemic even started, sometime in 2018, I think. 

It happened in Vermont. 

These things can happen in Vermont. 

That may seem like it’s not a big deal. It was one stupid comment from one person. But those things stay with you for longer than you might think. 

This past week, my family and I went on vacation. We’re all fully vaccinated, and the trip had been planned for this time last year but got cancelled. Me, my mom, my brother’s girlfriend, and my mom’s best friend hopped in the car and drove down to South Carolina. 

Going south felt scary. 

Maybe it’s unfair to be nervous of an entire region, but the spa shooting happened in Georgia, and it just doesn’t feel as safe as Vermont right now. And I was feeling nervous before we ever left Vermont. 

We’ve driven south before, but it was different this time.

You’ll know you’ve made it when you start to see Confederate flags by the side of the road. Those felt more threatening to me now than ever. 

To top it off, I dyed my hair blue recently. Bright blue. 

I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, and I was really excited, but it suddenly felt like too much. I stand out enough as it is being a 5’10 Korean girl who almost exclusively wears all-black outfits and doesn’t shy away from platform shoes. 

I feel people’s eyes on me, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m walking around with blueberry hair or because I’m Asian. 

Or both. 

I’ve been here for five days now and nothing bad has happened to me. The worst thing that I’ve experienced is one woman looked at me with a seemingly grumpy expression. It could’ve had nothing to do with me. 

It probably didn’t. 

To be honest, it’s likely that nothing bad will happen to me. 

It feels almost selfish to be worried for myself when there are so many other Asian people in real danger, so many Black people being brutalized by police. I have so much privilege, is it fair for me to worry for myself? 

A bill to combat the rise in anti-Asian hate was recently passed, a privilege that Black Americans and other Americans of color have never been afforded. 

I should feel safer than ever. 

But still, there are people who look like me, who have similar features as me, being targeted. And it’s happening despite the passage of this new bill. I can’t help but see myself in them. 

It could have been me, in one of those videos. 

It wasn’t, though. Maybe because of where I live, or when I left the house, or who I had with me when I did. 

But the possibility remains in the back of my mind, and I don’t think it will be leaving anytime soon. 


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