The mother, who hails from Southern California, explained how she first noticed something was off with her 8-year-old when he came home from school last week. She quickly noticed her son was acting off and after some prodding, he broke down.
“There’s some kid at school who said they don’t want to hang out with me because I might be a coronavirus carrier,'” he told her, then broke down.
She thinks the problem may have begun two days earlier when her son’s school started to talk to kids about the virus.
After school, he began looking up info on YouTube and found a video that scared him.
“There’s this video that’s supposed to be completely cynical and funny and just not real,” she shared with Slate. “It talks about how there’s an exchange student who goes over to Wuhan and he gives mouth-to-mouth to a dying snake on the floor of some meat stall, and it progressively goes until this guy dies.”
While the mom believed the animated video was obviously satirical, her son was not finding it funny.
“As the guy passes away and starts saying goodbye, my son immediately starts crying,” she added. “I totally freak out. I’m like, ‘If I had known that you would respond this way, I would have never let you watch this video.’”
And two days later, her son came home from school visibly upset.
Her boy then broke down in tears and asked his mom, “Oh God, Mom, am I going to die?”
At that point, he revealed what the classmate said to him and the mom was in shock.
“That’s when I got really upset,” she shared. “I don’t need my son to come home thinking he’s got the coronavirus and that he’s going to die. It was heartbreaking to even hear him say that.”
She asked who this classmate was and he informed her it was not someone he usually hangs out with but rather sees around school.
“I asked, ‘Why would he say that to you?'” she said. “He goes, ‘I don’t know.’”
The mom attempted to remind her son of the facts.
“At that point I said, ‘Look, you don’t have the coronavirus,'” she said. “‘We haven’t traveled anywhere. We’re telling you to wash your hands as soon as you come home from school. You always cover your cough. You don’t share food or drinks with anybody. You don’t even have a cough. You don’t have any symptoms. You didn’t give mouth-to-mouth to the snake.'”
But when she offered to go to the principal, her son insisted he did not want to make a big fuss.
The mom promised she should not mention the child by name but did tell her son she did want to talk to the principal to halt any bullying at school.
Eventually, the principal said he would not allow this discussion to happen again. But when the mom asked him the question if it all started because her son is Asian, the principal said he did not believe it was racially motivated.
“I can’t really see how it could be any other way, since it doesn’t seem like the other kid was telling anyone else that they had the coronavirus,” she responded.
But the mom believes the incident was rooted in racism.
“I don’t know how much of it was just the fact that my son is Asian,” she admitted. “I didn’t talk to the other young man, so I have really no idea how his family might have been talking about the coronavirus at home.”
While there are a lot of unknowns for most people around the globe regarding the coronavirus, the misinformation surrounding the disease can be just as damaging to society.
“Did he misunderstand something from his parents?” the mom asked out loud. “Could his parents actually have said that all Asian kids are carriers? I doubt it, but you can’t help thinking about it. The fact that he said to my son, ‘I’m not allowed to hang out with people like you because you might have coronavirus’ — I mean, there’s no other way to take it other than, ‘You’re from an Asian family, you might have it, you might’ve tried to travel to China,’” she continued.
Her son also guessed it may have been about his race as well.
Her son of course wanted to understand, asking his mom: “why would that kid say it to me and not to my other friends?”
“I don’t know if he really recognizes what it means for something to be racially motivated, but I think it was something he realizes might’ve happened because he is Asian,” she said.
And now, her son does not want to talk about it anymore, instead, wishing the whole thing to just disappear.
The mom is worried that he doesn’t want people to know “that he’d been addressed this way.”
It also forced her to reflect if his ethnicity has been a source of teasing in the past as well.
“To be honest, I don’t know if maybe race has been an issue in the past at school, because I don’t actually talk to him about it,” she said. “He probably wouldn’t bring it up.”
Additionally, the mom is also afraid that incidents similar to these will negatively affect her son in the future.
“Right now, he’s friends with whoever is friends with him, or whoever’s nice; I don’t want to take that away by making him worry that he’s going to get discriminated against,” she adds. “But I think it’s going to happen no matter what as he grows up, because at some point in time we all experience it. It doesn’t matter what you do in life. [Racists] don’t see you as a person.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.