Just before I climbed back into the car, after dropping bags of groceries at my parents’ door and firmly declining an offer to come inside for a cup of tea, my mom stepped outside to wave goodbye to me. My dad stayed behind the door watching us through its window. I grabbed my phone and asked her to pose for a snapshot to send my sister an update about our successful social distancing in the face of covid-19.
Never one to shy away from a camera, my mom threw her head back and gave me a dazzling smile. It’s always a surprise when people learn she’s almost 70 — she’s playful and vibrant, with the high cheekbones and beautiful skin often seen in Chinese women. I always say I hope to inherit her agelessness to join the dark eyes and olive skin she gave me. I drove away with tears in my eyes; my desire to keep my parents safe overwhelming me. I’m grateful they moved close to us years earlier, so I can take care of them now.
“This is who I am protecting. I need you to protect her, too,” I wrote when I shared the photo on my social media once I got home.
Hours later, I read a tweet from Donald Trump in which he called covid-19 “the Chinese Virus” (the first of several times in recent days he’s done that and a term he defended at his press briefing on Wednesday). My concern was no longer just about my mom’s vulnerability to the coronavirus. Simmering worries I’ve had about our ethnicity became icy fear as I scrolled through the comments. Trump’s language and the expected ripple effects feel very dangerous, even here in Canada, where statements from leaders south of the border have incited and inspired people to behave badly. Read more