The guy who threatened to kill me in high school wants to hug me now. If you’re discouraged by the hate in the world, I have a story that might give you hope.
As a Chinese American, I’ve struggled to make sense of everything that’s happened since the start of the pandemic. While conversations about COVID-19 have been primarily focused on health concerns and its impact on our economy, the least talked about crisis it has created is the rise in Asian-targeted hate crimes.1
All over the country, Asian Americans have and continue to suffer from racially-motivated verbal and physical attacks. One of the most despicable attacks took place in Texas when a man slashed the faces of a 2-year old girl, a 6-year old boy, and their father with a knife because he thought they were Chinese and carrying the coronavirus. These Asian-targeted hate crimes are being committed by both Caucasians and other minorities.2
I felt like the only unity I saw during this global crisis was people uniting in their hatred against Asians, and I couldn’t help asking God why. Earlier today, I believe God may have given me an answer.
It occurred to me that our country will always be divided as long as we continue to define what makes “us” different from “them.” When all races are exposed as having the propensity to be racist, there really is nothing that makes us different.
We should be united in the knowledge that all human beings are capable of great things as well as terrible things. I’ve certainly been on both sides of that spectrum. And I’ve found it’s only through God that we can be the best of ourselves.
Back in my senior year in high school, I wasn’t following Jesus. I only knew how to act on emotion and fight hatred with hatred. In the ‘90s, there were several Asian Americans attending my high school in Fremont, California. However, it was during a time when the city’s AA population was still growing. Non-Asian students saw the faces of their school change, and that change was not welcomed by all. Intolerance of Asians was rarely communicated openly, but that all changed one fateful day in 1999.
At the heart of the intolerance on campus was a disdain towards first generation Chinese American students because they spoke Mandarin or Cantonese to one another instead of English. These students had their own hangout spot by the lockers, so people knew where to find them.
One day, a white student named Adam walked up to them and began screaming a flurry of obscenities that included racial slurs and threats that he was going to “kill you all.”
I witnessed this verbal attack and refused to let it go unchecked. I eventually confronted Adam, and our exchange of words soon erupted into an exchange of fists. But the violence didn’t stop there. Soon after, a brawl broke out between his friends and mine.
I experienced firsthand that year how hate can spread like a virus. That fight between Adam and I was the spark that lit the flame.
Afterward, more confrontations took place between white students and Asian students. In an act of contempt for anything Chinese, someone had even taken Lunar New Year decorations that were hung up around the school library and set them on fire.
Today, anti-Asian racism is spreading almost as rapidly as coronavirus.3 Much of this hatred has been fueled by the media.4
This viral spread of xenophobia is also heavily attributed to the words many people are using to express blame on the Chinese government. If conversations were focused on the government leaders responsible, then it would simply be a political debate. However, when you use words like “Chinese virus” or “China is to blame,” something much more dangerous is happening. You are blaming an entire country.
When you blame a country, you’re blaming its people, not just its government officials. You’re blaming millions of innocent civilians who are just as affected by the virus as the rest of the world but have no control over their government’s actions. Guidelines created by the World Health Organization (WHO) expressly state not to use geographic locations for naming diseases because of these exact reasons. Attaching this kind of blame to someone’s race is like pouring gasoline over the flames of hate.
Back when I was a teenager, I saw how hatred spread like a virus through my school. So what do you do when it seems like the spread is inevitable and the cure is nowhere to be found?
Well, a month ago, I found the guy I punched on Facebook.
We were both invited to join a group page created by our high school alumni, and I happened to see a comment he posted. We have been enemies ever since high school, so there should have been no good reason for me to click on his profile.
But when I saw his name, a very specific thought came into my head that said, “He is a changed man and has found God.”
I had no logical reason to believe this, given who he was back in high school, but I clicked on his profile anyway. The first thing I saw was a cover photo of the Bible. I scrolled down his page and saw a video he posted in which he was reading Bible scripture and sharing a message about love and unity. It was so strange. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but I also saw exactly what I expected.
I decided to send Adam a message. I reminded him who I was and told him that I wanted to know how God has changed his life. He once threatened to kill me, so I asked him if he would take the opportunity to do it right now if I was standing in front of him.
When he replied back, the first thing he did was apologize for his actions in the past. Later in that message, he wrote, “If you were standing in front of me right now, I would hug you, tell you I love you, and ask for your forgiveness.”
I did forgive him. Today, I can say that the one person I hated most in my life is now my friend.
Through God, two people on opposite sides of a race war became brothers in Christ. God is the antithesis of hate. God is love. The more we follow Him, the more we make bold moves that can heal hate.
You don’t have to do something epic to be a part of changing the world. Sometimes it can start as simply as reaching out to your enemies. Afterwards, you might discover that you don’t have any.
1Reports of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans are currently averaging at approximately 100 per day according to Representative Judy Chu (D-CA)
2The stabbing in Texas was committed by a 19-year old Hispanic man. There are also multiple viral videos circulating of African Americans assaulting Asian Americans on subways and at subway stations.
3Stop AAPI Hate, a website launched by the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council on March 19, received more than 1,000 reports from people in 32 states detailing verbal abuse, denial of services, job discrimination, and acts of violence. In Texas, a 19-year-old man slashed the faces of a 2-year old girl, a 6-year old boy, and their father with a knife because “he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus.” In New York, a 39-year old Asian woman suffered severe burns when a man poured acid all over her body.
4Misinformation and conspiracy theories have run amok over the Internet. Many people, including public figures, have made over-generalized statements that all major diseases come from China and have even cited MERS and Swine Flu as being among those diseases even though MERS originated in Saudi Arabia and Swine Flu, or the H1N1 flu, originated in the United States. Rumors such as the one claiming coronavirus came from people eating bat soup in China have also been debunked (the viral video that helped spread this rumor was actually filmed in the island country of Palau back in 2016).