Writing in a Time of Peril: April 8, 2020

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 378,289 US cases, an increase of 30,294 and from the day before and 11,830 deaths, 2,147 more deaths than the day before as of 12:00pm on April 7, 2020.

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 401,166 US cases and 12,936 deaths as of 10:30am on April 8. Do the math!

Very early morning. Wrens, night herons, black birds, and nightingales sing through the dark morning in an avian symphony. Back and forth, throbbing low notes, high trilling notes, cheeps, shrieks, hoots. There is easy listening just outside my window in the ornamental pear trees and among the just coming spring leaves of the  Crape Myrtle. They sing undisturbed. They harmonize the passed day’s harrowing and triumphal tales. I listen raptured and fall to sleep. 

I was dragged out of a horrible dream about Jayne, who is beloved to me and my chosen daughter.  

Leslie, my birth daughter, and Jayne met while they were in high school when we all lived in San Francisco. After high school, Leslie was off to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta to study history. Jayne was off to Columbia in New York to study engineering. With a completely empty nest, I moved to Cambridge, Ma. 

Leslie, Jayne and I lived together in Cambridge in the mid 90s, while Jayne chose between M.I.T and Harvard for an MBA, and Leslie considered what graduate education to pursue, teaching or history. After working as a substitute teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin and other Cambridge area suburban high schools for a year, Leslie announced that teaching was definitely not her calling. She chose to pursue a graduate studies in historical preservation and urban planning. Same age, best friends, Leslie, African American born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jayne, Chinese American, born in the city of New York, New York.

In the dream, Jayne and I were returning home after shopping in Boston’s China town on a Saturday afternoon. We were sitting together chatting about what we would make for our weekly Sunday dinner. Hot pot or okra and shrimp. I often felt a delicious thrill when others around us were  curious about the older, fat, black woman and the tall svelte Chinese American woman talking as if there were mother and daughter. Their expressions were often attempts to hide their curiosity or their incredulity that we could possibly be beloved to each other, family to each other.  Yet, there we were loving each other without a care about the narrow confines of their experience and knowing.

In the dream, a group of young black men surrounded us. They dismissed me as a threat or target. They yelled their anti–Asian and misogynist rage. Faces distorted. Veins bulged. Spittle flew. Their voices shattered the air. No one on the train spoke or moved. They looked down or up or away. I jumped up. I stood in the space between the loudest, biggest and most menacing among them. I pulled my arm back as far as it would go. I swung my open hand. I slapped him harder than I thought I was capable of. Breaths on the train draw in and hissed to a hush. I pointed my finger directly in his face. I spoke in a direct, clear, deliberate, strong and low old Southern Colored woman voice

“Lower your hands. Hush your mouth. Show some respect for the women who made you and raised you.”

I kept moving until my forefinger pointed directly into his chest. He moved backward. His eyes showed surprise and confusion. He lowered his arms and was quiet. He began to move his head to look at the other young men.

“Look at me. Not them,” I said in the same low voice. They can’t help you.”

 The other young men formed a frozen tableau, like the other riders on the train.

“You’re doing to my daughter what white men did to your mothers and grandmothers. Those women who are the great and great–great granddaughters of former slaves, free black women, Caribbean, African, Haitian and Cuban immigrant women. Good Christian women, Muslim women, Jewish women. They are looking down on you. They are weeping. They are wailing. They are ashamed of you.”

I turned to the other young men.

“They are ashamed of all of you.”

I turned back and shifted my attention back to the big one. 

“You want to curse a Chinese woman, shame her, threaten her, beat her? You want somebody to blame? You want somebody to take your rage out on?”

I took a breath and looked at all of them for a beat. I turned back to the big one.

“You better get ready, because I’m going to beat you ass to dust if you don’t get off this train and leave my daughter alone. Leave Chinese people alone. Go help your mothers and grandmothers and aunties.

The train doored opened. The young men backed out. The train and the people disappeared in an ethereal smoke. I awakened clenching my bed clothes at my sides. My throat was hot and dry. My head and neck ached.

RACIAL DISPARITIES IN COVID-19 IMPACTS Over the past few days there has been increased recognition of disparities in COVID-19 impacts, with African Americans bearing a substantial burden of the deaths compared to other populations in the US. A similar phenomenon was observed during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, during which racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately affected. In Chicago, African American residents have approximately a 6 times higher mortality rate than Caucasian residents. Additionally, 68% of COVID-19 deaths have been reported in African Americans, despite only representing 30% of the population. The distribution of cases and death from COVID-19 highlights differential access to resources and poignant inequities between communities. Affected communities in Chicago have higher rates of underlying health conditions including hypertension, diabetes, and lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which could factor into the disproportionate COVID-19 impact. Additionally, individuals who live in high-density housing, use public transportation, and are employed in jobs that are not conducive to social distancing are likely at elevated risk. There is a need for actions to be taken to mitigate these impacts and identify appropriate protections to disproportionately affected populations.

Additional Resources:

Anti-Asian hate continues to spread online amid COVID-19 …

www.aljazeera.com › news › 2020/04 › anti-asian-hate-continues-spre.  

4/3/2020 – STOP AAPI HATE Receives over 1,100 Incident Reports of Verbal Harassment, Shunning and Physical Assault in Two Weeks

Pandemics: waves of disease, waves of hate from the … – NCBI

I go down my to-do list of self-care: meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there are very few people about. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Laugh a lot. Channel fear and rage into expression, action and art. 

I look up, “Will You Harbor Me,” by Sweet Honey in the Rock on YouTube. I repeat this song throughout the day whenever the thought of anyone harming my beloved Jayne because she is Chinese American.

Sweet Honey in the Rock – Would you harbor me – YouTube

YouTube‎ · ‎Eileen aka Adamfulgence

I continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA


Get Caught Up: https://andracanaan.blog

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