There were moments during the height of the pandemic in New York when sirens kept reminding us of the magnitude of sickness, that I felt a collective fear unlike anything I’ve ever known. We were afraid of each other. I’d be walking down a quiet street in Flushing, Queens and when another person approached, one of us would swerve dramatically off the sidewalk to let the other pass.
Slowly, we’re coming back together, gathering in big groups, hugging, and eating indoors, but that original fear must still be buried somewhere in all of us. I worry that what’s possible now is how each of us are capable of drawing from and acting on our deeply embedded fear of each other. We’re seeing examples of this in how Asian Americans are being scapegoated for starting or spreading the coronavirus. The racial violence has multiplied the fear in Asian American communities, leading to familiar feelings of intimidation lurking around every corner.