Coronavirus Brings Back a Sinister Slur

Cathy Park Hong writes of resurgence of 'Chink' and attacks against Asian Americans
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2020 10:30 AM CDT
Coronavirus Brings Back a Sinister Slur
Pedestrians wears face masks in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles on April 2, 2020, during the coronavirus outbreak.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The attacks are so frequent that Cathy Park Hong has begun bookmarking stories about them from across the US—verbal and physical assaults on Asian Americans because of the coronavirus. Frequently, they involve the slur "Chink," Park Hong writes in a New York Times op-ed. "The word was supposed to be as outdated as those sinister little Chinamen saltshakers I saw in thrift shops," she writes. "It still thrived among bottom feeders on the internet, but I hadn't heard it directed at me since I was in my 20s." The virus has changed that, and Park Hong is trying to wrap her head around the fact that Americans are now using the slur "so openly and with such raw hate." Prior to all this, she tended to minimize the "unspoken" racism directed at Asian Americans, but the virus has revealed the vicious nature behind it.

This new brand of racism is different than what she grew up with because it "carries the stench of late-19th-century xenophobia." Chinese people were seen as a "degraded" race back then, and the sentiment seems to be returning. Park Hong says she feels it every time she dons a face mask in her New York City neighborhood to venture out. "The everyday racialized experience is not so much being the target of hate more than the anticipation of it," she writes. But the hate is all too real: In the first week of April, an Asian woman in Brooklyn was severely burned when an assailant doused her with what was believed to be acid. Park Hong is both "enraged" and "scared," she writes. "In addition to fears of catching the virus or of being unemployed or of loved ones dying, we now have to worry about having acid thrown at us?" Read the full op-ed. (More coronavirus stories.)

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