“Where are you from?”
Those are the first words out of my patient’s mouth when I ask how I can help her today. A lifetime of being asked this question as an Asian American has prepared me to simply reply, “I’m from here.”
Usually that dissipates the conversation, but today, my patient adds, “I’m not racist, I just don’t want to get the virus.”
I am an Asian American physician working in the emergency room at the University of California in San Francisco, and my experience is not isolated. As headlines continue to provide updates about the covid-19 virus overwhelming hospitals across the country, an overt wave of xenophobic and racist sentiment has also swept in.
Early on, even before the coronavirus was officially labeled a pandemic, Asian commuters shared traumatic stories of harrowing public transits marked by racial slurs, spitting, and physical assaults from passersby. And on Sunday, a man wearings medical scrubs and an N95 mask blocking an anti-lockdown protest in Denver was told to “Go back to China”.