by Carolina Barsakov
The Atlanta Spa Shootings on March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings that occurred at three spas or massage parlors, left eight people dead, six of them Asian American women. This event sparked a conversation about hate crimes targeting Asian people.
Since this mass shooting, many have opened up on social media about the discrimation they had experienced from simply being Asian.
James S., a junior at ASW has lived in many countries outside of his home country, Korea, and has experienced discrimination since he was a child. “My mom would make my lunch everyday, which usually included a portion of rice, which is a big part of the food we eat in my culture. Everyday, kids would make fun of my food and comment things like ‘it smells so bad.’ It got to the point where I got so embarrassed that I asked my mom to change my whole meal everyday. I felt forced to adapt to a culture that wasn’t mine.”
James has also played football for a long time and played with many international kids back when he lived in Africa and now, in Poland. “People would call me “China” and other names like that and when I lived in Africa, people would come watch the games and scream “china china” while I’m on the field.”
“As a child, I would get very upset,” he said. “It’s not like if you fight it it’s gonna do anything, so I just got used to it. Even when kids make jokes now, they go too far sometimes. Like, they’re making fun of my culture.”
Annie L., a junior at ASW who is Vietnamese, didn’t have to think twice and instantly recalled three experiences of discrimination, when asked about examples from her life. “I’ve experienced verbal and somewhat physical discrimination. In grade 7 I went on a Polish trip with my polish class to the Kopernikus Museum in Warsaw. There was a science fair and so, I went into one of the rooms. The teacher split us up, which is why I was the only one in that room from our school. There were Polish boys in there with me, who were laughing and saying things like ‘let’s lock this chinese girl in here.’ I speak Polish and so, I understood everything they were saying. I didn’t think they were actually going to do it, but they left the room, held the door closed and didn’t let me out. I was asking them to let me out over and over again and their response was ‘ching chong ching chong.’ It was dark in the room, I was scared and alone.”
“Another time, I was on a facetime call with my friend and her friends from Madrid on houseparty. She added me because she said her friends were being racist to my brother and our other Asian friend and I was the oldest one and wanted to see what’s up and observe. They were making squinty eyes and saying ‘ching chong.’ You know what’s funny, though? One of the guys who was being racist to us was Korean. I was like ‘Aren’t you Asian?’ He said “No, I’m not,” which was very surprising overall. It’s like he was ashamed of his background and really wanted to fit in with the others”
Anti-Asian discrimination also occurs on our own school grounds. “One time in grade 3,” Annie said, “I was hanging out on the swings and people were waiting in line, so I said ‘Hey guys can I be on the swings? I’ve been waiting so long.’ This guy in my grade said ‘No, these swings are only for people from Earth you come from Mars, you’re not from Earth.’ It’s crazy how this discrimination can start at such an early age.”
“Asians are currently scared to go out on the streets in America,” Annie said.
James added, “I don’t think anybody is just born racist. So many people are taught it though, because of their surroundings growing up.”
“I mean obviously if someone isn’t taught that there are people that look different than them, when they see one, it’s like a cultural shock,” said Annie. “Even just the amount of subconscious remarks that people make, such as “you’re pretty for an asian” is so not okay, but so common. At the end of the day, it gets to me. It really does.”