The images above are photos I took of a Zoom chat-box during one of my college courses today. Zoom is an application that allows for lectures, class discussions and other academic or business related education to take place through the Internet. Pictured above are messages sent by one of my classmates, reading: "f*ck the Chinese gov", "amen", and "China hates non-Chinese people". More violent words were sent, although I was not able to photograph them. Given the increased violence (verbal, psychological and physical) against Asian people across the globe, but particularly in the United States, such rhetoric presented in a formal classroom discussion setting sets a standard in fueling the xenophobia and racism that is already rampant.
I am beginning to realize that this quarantine creates a unique set of circumstances for the oppressed. Being in isolation from others as a marginalized person brings a special sensibility in that it distances you from the otherwise rampant and often violent social issues that you would encounter outside of your home on a day-to-day basis. However, I noticed that I am still feeling the exhaustion that accompanies oppressive systems. The onset of the popularity of the Internet in this age, especially for academic discussion and world news during the Covid-19 pandemic still allows for the oppression of marginalized groups, but now bombards them within their own homes -- homes that were previously considered a safe space from the overwhelming facets of day-to-day life. From racially charged classroom rhetoric to the recent reports that Covid-19 disproportionately affects People of Color, the home of the marginalized individual has now become a battleground just like the classroom and the world stage.
Now, the safety of our bedrooms and living rooms — or other places in our houses that were previously places that we would retreat to in order to seek refuge from the constant alienation that is enforced by the social constructs of race and racism — those places are just as much owned by the othering systems as they are by us.
This is an unprecedented occurrence that I do not believe has been discussed in in depth yet. Such a circumstance is bound to create psychological issues ranging from dissonance to feelings of displacement, in People of Color who feel themselves being attacked by news media outlets, their work colleagues, or their classmates.
Personally, I have been feeling much more exhaustion than when I interacted with such racist rhetoric in person. Before COVID-19, at the end of the day, I was always able to retreat to my room and see my friends in person — a bubble I created in order to protect me from the overwhelming aspects of real-time life. I had crafted my own space in which alien objects and unkind people were not permitted — surrounded by content, objects and other items that created a feeling of comfort. However, now that I have to turn my computer on every day, twice a day, for several hours, letting hundreds of people into my bedroom (through both the camera and the microphone), I find a new sense of discomfort settling in. My bedroom doesn't feel like my safe place anymore, now it just feels like another room in which I have to craft responses to the racist language and cruel words pictured above. Not only that, but the constant surge of media being poured into our homes, our minds and our hearts detailing the horrific attacks against People of Color, or the fact that People of Color suffer from COVID at higher rates — it all feels like too much.
And I want to be clear: this experience is not for white people. It isn't. The dissonance that People of Color feel due to current events is a special set of circumstances, feelings and mental states that white people do not have to interact with. With the continued generational trauma and racialized experiences that People of Color face and live with, this unique setting only presents a new set of barriers.