Millions of Americans could start a summer of normal life, newly freed from the requirement to wear masks. But at Mandy Lin’s apartment in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, the lockdown continues.
Her 9-year-old son is taking his final fourth grade classes via his laptop, while many of his classmates have already returned to classes in person. Your grandmother spends all day indoors. When they want to exercise, Lin’s family walks into the apartment building’s parking lot or ventures into a nearby park.
It’s not Covid that prevents the family from immersing themselves in a world of restaurants, schools and bustling public spaces.
“Leaving home is not safe,” said Lin, 43. “The violence and harassment have been endless.”
The increase in attacks on Asians during the pandemic is preventing many Asian American families from reaching the rest of the country to return to normalcy.
As schools close distance education, companies urge employees to return to work and people drop masks, Asian Americans say rush to reopen the country is creating a new wave of concerns for them – not with the possibility of getting sick, but with the risk of being assaulted if they venture to board a bus or are approached on their way back from a cafe or bookstore.
In more than a dozen interviews given in various parts of the country, Asian Americans detailed their fears about their safety and a series of precautionary measures they have faced as the country returns to normal. Some even avoid using the metro and public transport. Others have stopped going to restaurants. Some fear the end of teleworking and the return of professional travel.
Meanwhile, the attacks continue. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of community and academic organizations, has identified more than 6,600 attacks and other incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders between March 2020 and March 2021.
A survey this spring, in the fall in Brazil, found that one in three Asian Americans is afraid of being the victim of hate crimes. And while nearly three-fifths of white fourth-graders have returned to classrooms, only 18 percent of their Asian-American counterparts have returned to face-to-face classes, according to federal surveys.
Asian Americans have said they hope the attacks subside as more people are vaccinated and the pandemic subsides. But one after the other reiterated the same concern: there is no vaccine against prejudice.
“The stigma has taken a deep root,” said Lily Zhu, 30, a technology professional in Pflugerville, Texas. “When we received the Covid vaccine, it marked the end of this strange year when everyone was frozen in time. But that paranoia is still there.
In Philadelphia, Mandy Lin is surprised by reports of violence and verbal assaults against Asian Americans that appear in her groups on WeChat: pregnant woman punched in the face, 64-year-old man assaulted a few steps away from Lin’s family apartment by someone shouting anti-Asian abuse, a 27-year-old woman slapped her head without any provocation or warning.
Lin said his family followed the same routine to protect themselves, although Philadelphia celebrated the reduction in coronavirus cases, announcing the end of retail capacity limits and a return to face-to-face classes at full time next fall in the United States, spring in Brazil.
Lin shops at Chinatown fairs near his home. Her husband, who works in a supermarket, brings home everything they need. And every school day, she sits next to her 9-year-old son, who has autism, to help him with his virtual lessons.
She fears that her son is even further behind the other students because he is not in their company, but she has great concerns about his return to school: his physical safety, the 3.2 km journey until school, the fact that he could not be vaccinated.
Back-to-school disparities have become a particularly pressing concern for entities representing Asian American parents. They fear what could happen in the next school year if their children continue to feel unsafe. The Department of Education recently released a handbook for families facing anti-Asian bullying and reminded schools that they have a legal obligation to address bullying.
But that’s not enough for Lin. Not yet.
Many people said they try to find a balance that makes them feel comfortable in public, whenever possible. Just walking around can require a heart-wrenching pre-assessment: will wearing a mask serve to protect them or will it attract unwanted attention? Is it safer to go out during the day or at night? Is it safer to hang out in predominantly Asian neighborhoods, or are the chances of being attacked higher?
Many residents of these neighborhoods have asked the police to increase their patrols. Some communities have adopted their own community surveillance systems.
Some Asian Americans have been encouraged by a new federal law aimed at strengthening the police response to the nearly 150% increase in anti-Asian attacks, many of which target women and the elderly.
But many remain apprehensive. “When society is more open, it means more threats,” said Jeff Le, policy partner at the Truman National Security Project think tank.
Le’s life is largely back to normal before the pandemic, but he revealed he was still hesitant to travel by plane since March 2020, when a woman at Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe International Airport spat at him. on it and said, “Go back to where you came from”.
“It was a feeling of helplessness like I had never felt before,” he said. “It’s something I can’t forget. It made me feel like I was cancer or something radioactive.
After being vaccinated, Augustine Tsui returned from his home in New Jersey to work at a midtown Manhattan law firm, but says he doesn’t know when his life or that daily commute to work will return. normal. After spending years taking the bus and train, he now drives to work and pays up to $ 65 for parking, the price needed to allay his family’s fears. His wife, Casey Sun, works from home, producing organic soaps and cosmetics for her online business, and says she rarely goes out.
Tsui’s office is near where, in May, an attacker tore part of an Asian American’s finger with his teeth. Tsui wears a mask to hide his face as he enters the building.
“So instead of attracting anti-Asian comments, it’s not entirely clear who I am,” he said. “I can just get on with my day.”