SpeaKOut is a monthly column focused on diversity and inclusion, meant to bring new voices into the KO News.
Through interviews with students outside of the dominant culture at KO, speaKOut strives to raise awareness for how we can make KO a more supportive community that celebrates our differences.
For my second interview, I sat down with junior Jane Liang. Jane is a member of Forensic Union, a photo editor for the KO news, Shield and Dragon tour guide, member of the swim team, and a Chinese international student.
I was interested to hear what Jane had to say in light of the current global coronavirus crisis.
Jane has family back in her hometown of Beijing, China who have had to change their daily life due to the outbreak of this deadly virus.
With a spike of Chinese racism in the US as well as the recent college scandal regarding a coronavirus-themed party, I reached out to Jane to get her perspective on what it is like to be a Chinese individual outside of China during the outbreak of this virus.
How do you self identify?
I am Chinese. That is where I come from and that is probably where I will end up.
Have you ever seen offensive images or comments online–possibly posted by members of the KO community– that target your ethnicity/race?
There are a lot of posts on the internet blaming China for the spread of the coronavirus – Instagram memes and TikTok videos especially. Some of them can be really offensive to me. People will say, “You just don’t get it. It’s just a meme,” but it’s actually very hurtful because that is what my country is going through.
I can see that they don’t post them to be racist, but there will be posts that say, “We know coronavirus won’t last long because it’s made in China.”
Coronavirus is a very serious problem, and I don’t think anyone should be making fun of it.
Can you elaborate more on how the coronavirus crisis has impacted you? Has it affected any other aspects of your life besides social media use?
Back in Beijing, my parents are working super hard to fight the problem and they have sacrificed a lot of their time for it.
My mom is a doctor, so she has been in the hospital 24/7 for the past month.
There is a shortage of supply masks, so she has been wearing the same mask and the same suit for days in a row, which you’re not supposed to do.
For my dad, his company told him to stay home and work. At our apartment building, there are people at the door who prevent people from coming in and out.
He has been in our room for the past month. Overall, it has been really difficult for my family and friends back in China.
I believe that all types of viruses or infectious diseases are problems for us humans as a species.
There’s no such thing as “a disease for a country,” and I just wish people would be aware of that. Especially at this stage, it’s really not a time for racism or hatred.
Have people ever cracked jokes based on your race/religion/background?
People like making jokes about how Chinese people are generally good at math. They think that it’s normal for international students to do well in math and that we don’t have to think about it.
However, we know that is not true; we are not naturally smart. We get there because we work hard. It can be annoying at times because if you ever get the same grade as a non-Asian kid, they will say, “I worked so hard for this grade, it just came naturally for you.” That is just really unfair.
Can you think of an instance when you have felt uncomfortable at KO due to your race/religion/background?
When I first got to campus, people had a very difficult time telling the difference between me and other international students. In class, people would always call me Stacey, the name of another international student.
That was just not okay with me because I know we are both Chinese, but we look different. When you correct people, they just say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just can’t tell the difference between you two.”
I understand that it’s hard for people to tell the difference in how we look, but it is still rude.
What is one thing you wish people would know about being Chinese?
Just because we are Chinese, that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that we don’t get jokes or that we don’t get pop culture. We are not naturally good at math. It doesn’t mean that we are nerds. Don’t believe stereotypes. There are so many types of Chinese people out there.
Overall, do you think KO has been successful in creating a diverse community that respects and celebrates its differences?
I would say that KO has improved a lot.
Learning about the lunar new year was a big step. Celebrating other cultures, not just Chinese, but also Korean culture and other Asian cultures is something I am very glad to see.
There is still space for improvement. I think it could be a good idea for speakers to come in and talk about diversity.
There are a lot of speakers who talk about drugs or alcohol, but that is not the only problem in high school.