Prejudice and the pandemic

Because the COVID-19 pandemic traces back to China, people have associated the disease with Asian people in general. At the height of the pandemic, violence and hostility toward people of Asian descent drastically increased across the U.S.

Nurie Langlois, a junior linguistics and Asian languages and literature major at the University of Georgia who is half Korean and half white, shared her previous experiences with racism and discrimination. Socially-enforced stereotypes, such as the model minority stereotype, molded some of her experiences.

“When I was in the ninth grade, there's this guy who stood up and was like, ‘Hey guys, isn’t it weird that Nurie’s Asian, but she's the best in our English class?’ I turned to him, and I was like, ‘I was born in Alabama,’” Langlois said.

On the rise

Over the last year, an increased reporting of Asian-directed hate crimes has been observed in the United States.

In Stop AAPI Hate’s national report, released on Feb. 28, approximately 3,800 incidents were reported between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021. The majority of incidents concerned verbal harassment. Other incidents range from online harassment to physical assault. Women reported more incidents, and the most affected nationality was Chinese individuals.

Since the Atlanta mass shooting, hashtags such as “#StopAsianHate” have been trending worldwide. Communities have held vigils for the mass shooting and Congress held a hearing regarding Anti-Asian hate on March 18.

Langlois shared sentiments of feeling othered and alienated due to her mixed-race identity. Even though she was born and raised in the South, her classmates didn’t consider her “Southern.”

Nothing she’s faced has been “super bad,” Langlois said. However, microaggressions can lead to the enforcement of stereotypes.

Microaggressions entail a large variety of acts, statements and behaviors.

“What makes them so disconcerting is that they happen casually, frequently and often without any harm intended, in everyday life,” writes Jenée Desmond-Harris for Vox.

The distinction between racism, discrimination and microagressions can be determined by the severity of the incident. General gestures include mocking physical characteristics, mocking accents and reinforcing stereotypes.

Experiences at UGA

Most of these incidents occurred during Langlois’s high school career, and she said “UGA has been a lot more accepting.”

Although UGA has been more accepting in Langlois’s life, racially-insensitive experiences continue throughout her time at UGA, including microaggressions from other students. Langlois has received videos of peers mocking Hibachi chefs while doing an imitation of a Chinese accent and being a recipient of “bat jokes'' as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I've noticed that a lot of Asian creators also make jokes like, ‘Oh, I eat dog,’ just because it was a way to fit in, in a way, and I think that made things worse,” Langlois said.

Langlois said that some of the reasons she used to not stand up for herself was due to the notion “that a lot of times Asians don't speak out about these things.”

“I think I used to be more silent, like, ‘Oh, who cares,’ and just ignore it, but now I'm a lot more okay with calling people out, going, ‘Hey that's not okay. You can't say that at all. You shouldn't be making bat jokes,’” Langlois said.

Hannah Lee, a junior landscape architecture major, who is Korean-American, takes a different approach to monitoring Asian-directed discrimination.

“I had a couple of like Asian professors and whenever they'd have an accent, I’d always be checking and making sure that no one was irritating them or trying to make fun,” Lee said.

Lee’s faced racial discrimination directly as well. During the summer 2019, Lee and her family faced racism while on vacation.

“My grandma bumped into a white man there, and he called her ‘a fucking stupid Chinese bitch,” Lee said. She believes the man had thought she and her family didn’t know English.

Although UGA hasn’t been “blatantly racist,” Lee has experienced incidents that could be defined as microaggressions. In an Instagram post, Lee compiled a list of quotes she’s heard including, “Have you ever eaten dog before?” and, “Are you from North or South Korea?”

Lee said she wouldn’t speak up in defense “in fear of what reactions [she’d] stir up in people.” The post covers Lee’s experience with internalized racism, self-hatred and her journey toward self-love and the need for love and community.