In Your Neighborhood/Opinion

We are all living in the same salad bowl of life

Despite what former the President said, viruses don’t discriminate; we shouldn’t either

Image from Twiter feed from Washington Post Photographer Jabin Botsford

In a photograph of his notes for remarks at a recent news briefing, it captures how President Trump crossed out corona and wrote "Chinese" as an intentional change.

By Sengoudone Soy Sengvilay
Posted 3/22/21
A poignant reminder from a neighbor that in this world, we are all living in the same salad bowl of life – and viruses don’t discriminate.
Why is it easier to buy a gun in Georgia than it is to register to vote? Why are the women’s facilities for the NCAA basketball tournament so inferior to those of the men? What does it mean when Judge Brian Goldman, after finding Providence Police Sgt. Joseph Hanley guilty of assaulting a man already in handcuffs, called Hanley’s testimony “an utter fabrication of what actually occurred?” Which reporter will be the first to ask Patriots owner Robert Kraft what he thinks about violence and murder directed at Asian American spas?
The history our students learn in school is often a narrative with blinders on, one that refuses to recognize that racism and violence against the “other” is a deep vein running throughout our past, our historical DNA. Worse, the daily misinformation that is broadcast by the Fox networks is taking a terrible toll on our ability to discern fact from lies, which is the essence of our democracy in an informed citizenry.
The larger question for news reporters [and advertisers] that are affiliated with the Fox or Sinclair networks: At what point are willing to tell the truth about the owners you work for and the way they distort the news?

Editor’s Note: A year ago, on March 23, 2020, ConvergenceRI ran this story. In light of the violent attack on Asian American women in Atlanta last week, it seems apt to run the story again, as a potent reminder.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic, the research shows us. And, that there is a connection between most mass shootings and misogyny – the hatred of women, which is, by definition, a hate crime. In that context, why are so many Republicans in the U.S. Senate opposed to the reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act?

We are still paying the price in human lives for the racial hatred spewed out by the former President and his followers, attempting to blame the coronavirus pandemic on China.

KILLINGLY, Conn. – I get it. From the media coverage, the coronavirus began in Wuhan, China.

When the media first reported on this disease, some claimed that it was due to Asians eating bats. Next, some news networks showed images from the markets full of exotic animals that we in America could not fathom eating. This gave rise to racism toward Asians, racism I have experienced first hand.
: I was asked if I ate bats, dogs, and cats. Soon after, there were conspiratorial theories being broadcast that the coronavirus had been created in a lab in Wuhan.

Whatever the culprit of it was, who is to blame? 
Are we supposed to blame a whole group of people with Asian descent for this pandemic? Even ones who have never been to China? Are the ones with slanted eyes easier to target because they look different?

Ever since this pandemic began, Asians have been the target of xenophobia and racism. Most people are unable to distinguish what country Asians are from because we’ve been told: “We all look alike.”

Is it easier to just discriminate against us because someone has to be held responsible?

Also, the leader of our country has given COVID-19 a different name, calling it the “Chinese virus.” A reporter at the White House interviewed a senior official who referred to the virus as “Kung-flu.” What has our world come to? 

I live in Killingly, Conn. , just across the border from Rhode Island. When I leave my house, I see Confederate flags used as license plates, flags adorned on the back of pick-up trucks, belt buckles and hats. Most recently, our town’s high school mascot was reverted back to the original “Killingly Redmen.”

My son, a kindergartener, was told by a classmate that his skin was ugly because it was too dark. A week later, this same child called my son “illegal” and “gay.”

I asked the teacher if the student’s parents knew about the issue and she said yes. The next day, the child apologized.

Most recently, I was at Stop & Shop and a child who looked to be about 12 years old stared at me and covered his nose with his fingers upon seeing me walk through the aisle. A family member who works in the medical field was told to “go back to China.” 

We are from Laos, not China. My brother, who once owned Thai Basil, found his restaurant sign vandalized with words that said, “We serve cats and dogs.” 

Not too long after, a dead dog was placed on his lawn. My niece, who once attended Ellis Tech, was barked and meowed at while walking through the halls. The discrimination was happening long before this outbreak, and it has only gotten worse.

This is my home

Despite all of this, I have chosen Killingly as my home. Despite being discriminated against, I have seen more people in this community show me love, care and support. I have made amazing friends, those with whom I have shared laughter, joy, love and tears.

I know that the racist sentiment is not how this community at large feels. Most of us who live here are from a family of immigrants. The United States is a great country because of us. We must unite and stand up to the face of discrimination because it is wrong. I have been here since I was just a one-year-old baby, essentially my entire life. 

Five years ago, when I visited Laos, I did not feel like I was home. When I came back to the states, I felt like I was home. To me, even though I may not be white, I am an American.

A salad bowl of unique cultures

The reason why our country is great is because we are a mixture of different ethnic backgrounds. We are a salad bowl of unique cultures and identities that make America great. We may not all look alike, but we are beautiful in our unique way. Let’s not forget that we all, from our unique backgrounds, call this country home.

In our home, we can eat whatever food we feel like. If you want pizza, you can buy pizza. If you want Mexican, there’s a Mexican restaurant here. And, if you want Asian food, you can choose from Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. We are all in this battle together.

Let’s not forget that amidst all of this chaos, we all bleed red.
Let’s not forget the values of what our great country was founded on as stated in the Declaration of Independence: “Our inalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Furthermore, we cannot be happy if we forget that we are all immigrants.

Please take to heart the message from my good friend, Brenda Sim: “Please do not teach your children to hate and be ignorant. Viruses don’t discriminate. We shouldn’t either.”


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