Coronavirus: America’s Default Setting

By: Sean Davis

Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19

In America, race comes first, second, and third when listing the reasons for our biggest problems, collectively as a nation. Fourth, I’d say focuses directly on class but since that’s so intertwined with race, well, you can see where this is going.

As people are just starting to bend their minds that this coronavirus “thing” is more than a common flu facsimile, sad, but not surprising, behavior is also making itself worthy of attention. Americans are lashing out against Chinese-Americans and other Asian populations within our borders for fear that they “brought it here.”

We all know that Asians just carry this virus, right? They haven’t had to mourn their loved ones. It doesn’t affect them more than a regular sneezing fit would. Apparently, they just smile and go about their days and evenings. COVID-19 merely needs them for delivery purposes. People aren’t just suffering under a heinous genetic mutation at our doorsteps. Your neighbors, my neighbors, our neighbors are bringing another scourge to Asians in America.

A great number of these people accosted in a New York Times’ piece are born, American, citizens by the way. Across this free nation, people trek to their gyms for a great way to occupy the mind and spirit in such a depressing daily cycle. Those out to burn off calories and just get in a good sweat are pelted with wads of spit. In broad daylight. While waiting for the walk sign at an intersection.

In the Greatest City in the World, New York City, Asian-Americans are attacked on the subway. A woman was berated and then physically confronted for simply wearing a mask. She became a target for sport because she’s doing her best to protect herself and possibly others. Would anyone rather have the poor woman cough up her brains without covering her mouth? Because a woman did just that in a parking lot two nights ago in Hollywood. She didn’t care who was around either. OK. It’s not like worrying about germs on the train during a regular Wednesday since…ever, was enough. Let’s up the ante with racism, xenophobia and assault.

In what way does this help anyone? Let’s send an innocent person to the hospital when the healthcare system is taxed already. Makes sense.

With the thick haze of fear that’s breaking out hourly, people are retreating to their tribes. In America that cuts according to two lines. You know where they are. You don’t? There are Americans. There are Americans (tagged with hyphens).

I’m not writing this to create division. No. I’m highlighting the division that fuels this country. I’m not about to take the rest of this piece as swinging a hammer at the Oval Office. That’s far too common and there are better voices of the talking head variety that can take that mantle and go to places I haven’t considered. Simply, I’m using my eyes and ears to document how people treat each other. The Oval Office has prospered in chaos but what’s happening to Asians in lieu of an unprecedented global calamity is taking place on a day-to-day level. There’s no need for political spin here.

Hate and racism doesn’t need to trickle down to the little people. It’s always thrived down here where money, political capital and/or party are close enough where tight proximity to one another is unavoidable. Where you have to deal with your bigotry when it can’t be pushed away. The everyday people inject life into uncovered, secretive, hatred. Coronavirus makes it so that it can’t be hidden when lives are tragically lost.

In times of crisis, people rally and bang the drum, “We can do this together.” I’m a positive person. So, I always want to believe in the best of humanity, but human nature always crystallizes the part of my personality that I depend on most: Realism. I know how people are. We have it in us to be better. We often forego that in times of hardship. Or a quick buck – or to screw the next sucker out of something because…it was Friday.

I’m seeing this daily.  There are large numbers of people actually pulling together. Yes. However, substantial numbers of our population are becoming versions of what they always were.

Two women and a man at the supermarket this morning rolled their eyes at this Asian woman in the checkout line. From what I saw there wasn’t an interaction between the lone woman and the three customers behind her. The woman fixed her mask on her face, grabbed her groceries and strolled away. The three people snickered among one another and said something they felt was hilarious to the cashier. So kind was that clerk, but even she rolled her eyes at them in response to – what I can only gather – was a putrid attempt at some bigoted buffoonery.

As I got my receipt from the cashier to close out my transaction and we exchanged quick smiles, she shook her head and offered, “The things people say make me sick.”

Americans do this to other…Americans. Humans do this to other humans. It’s physical. It’s verbal. It’s all disgusting.

Aren’t we supposed to be better than this by now?

Three weeks ago, I saw a fight break out over toilet paper, just when the fever here in Los Angeles was really kicking into gear. Californians have a hard time believing anything of real concern actually happens. Ever. That was wrong. I should say people who mostly live in certain parts of Southern California to be clearer. I’m a born and raised New Yorker so take from that what you may.

Once again, I was shopping. I made a dash for small items for weekend dinner ideas I had. Directly due to wasting too many hours staring at food on the internet that I was suddenly invigorated to concoct. I’m hyper aware of incidents in this realm so it wasn’t alien to me that the person that lost the toilet paper duel was of Asian descent. If I couldn’t discern their ethnic background visually, the explosive and specifically detailed, racially heated expletives fired in their direction evaporated all gray area in a flash.

Asian children of all ages are victims of bullying in schools. When schools were in attendance that distant time ago. (A month to two months ago, depending on where you reside.)  A kid was beat up a few weeks back because his peers thought they were enacting some form of public service.

This virus takes all. It does not discriminate.

This isn’t an Asian problem. It’s a world problem. Thousands are dying. Primarily, alone, because the transmission rate has doctors on their heels to the point where hospitals are ending hospital visits of loved ones infected by COVID-19. Think about that. Take ten seconds to realize that you or someone you love could have a terrible reaction to the virus, only to be quarantined, and then learn that your family isn’t allowed to visit. Then you wait…to die.

Are your ten seconds over? Count. I’ll wait for you. Like most people, I’m home. I’ve got no plans for the evening.

We get scared. We scream. We have the gall to tell other Americans and/or those that are here that they “don’t” belong. It doesn’t matter one hint if they took every breath – or the majority of them – as a law-abiding citizen of the United States. Above that, they are living, breathing, humans. Instead of care and acceptance – I despise the use of tolerance as it pertains to addressing people deemed to be different – we go to the trusted, default, setting in America.

A setting never too far from reach.


Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash