These Asian American health care workers are fighting two viruses: Covid and hate
Updated 8:00 AM ET, Fri May 21, 2021
(CNN)Health care workers are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, risking their lives to protect Americans from illness and even death.
Among them are countless Asian American medical professionals, serving as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians and more.
But as they work around the clock to stop the virus from spreading, many are having to confront another danger: hate.
Misplaced blame for the coronavirus pandemic has made Asian Americans a target for increased harassment and even violence. In fact, an analysis by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 of the largest US cities and counties rose by 164% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period the year before.
Here is what Asian American health care workers have to say about what it feels like fighting two viruses at once:
Kathleen Begonia, 34, is a Filipino American registered nurse and a specialists in nursing informatics in Floral Park, New York.
She said the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes makes her feel unsafe. Begonia has stopped taking public transportation and carries pepper spray and a personal alarm everywhere she goes.
"I actually signed up to take self-defense classes because I still carry my childhood experiences of racism with me," Begonia told CNN. "I don't trust that anyone else can take care of me, not even police, so I make sure that I can defend myself. I run every day and keep fit in case I need to defend myself."
Begonia said she's experienced racism all of her life. As a child, she noticed people would yell racial slurs at her family and throw garbage on their lawn. Someone even ignited fireworks in their mailbox, she said.
Begonia and her parents are all nurses working on the front lines of the pandemic. She said they treat all patients without regard to race, religion or beliefs. She's disheartened that not everyone feels the same.
"Thinking about how we are nurses taking care of anyone who comes into the hospital — it can be infuriating. The very people who insult us in public can also become vulnerable themselves and require our care," Begonia said. "So, when I see people hurting the Asian American community, it saddens me because we are also your health care providers."
David Wu, 56, is a Chinese American and the executive director of the Pui Tak Center in Chicago, Illinois.