Why Your Treatment of Others Matters
As soon as I heard the coronavirus originated from China, I knew trouble for me remained.
I learned it happened to Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor was bombed. I had seen it happen to Middle Eastern-Americans after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I heard and read that Russian-Americans to this day are still being accused of spies as a result of the Cold War. A year ago, I was personally accused myself along with other Chinese-Americans of being technology thieves as the Trade War raged on. The news did not need to tell, history and experience had already made clear what my fate was going to be for some time.
As all but essential businesses began to close their doors, my predictions quickly transformed into reality.
People backing away from me as if I was the very virus itself as I shopped for my family.
Someone who nearly slammed into me as a pedestrian whilst driving yelling, “Hey you from China! Go get yourself run-over!” even though the stoplight indicated I had the right of way.
Hearing others, including loved ones, were hit with projectiles, and wondering if I was next.
Avoiding eye contact with others to spare another confrontation.
But I was not the only one discriminated against. Death announcements and abusive encounters cascading one after another like a waterfall at the hands of law enforcement, their ensuing protests, the recurring phrase “I can’t breathe”, and this year’s NBA season being delayed, all made it clear that the African-American and Black communities were too.
And we are all still demanded to stand to the anthem and the flag? I thought, remembering the movement Colin Kaepernick started for this same reason. How is that fair? It was not hard for me figure out why some kneeled in protest– why should they have to be loyal to those who treat them poorly? Why should we?
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has demonstrated thoughts like these are not uncommon, but rather normal for those mistreated and ignored. As exciting and adventurous read it is, it also has a lot of wisdom embedded throughout. A prime example is when in the final novel, Harry learns of Kreacher’s involvement with the horcruxes:
“ ‘I don’t understand you, Kreacher,’ [Harry] said finally. ‘Voldemort tried to kill you […] but you were still happy to betray[…] and pass information to [him]…’
‘Harry, Kreacher doesn’t think like that,’ said Hermione […] ‘He’s […] used to bad, even brutal treatment; [it is not] that far out of the common way. What do wizard wars mean to [him]? He is loyal to people who are kind to him […] I’ve said all along that wizards would pay for how they treat house-elves.’”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 10, p. 198
And so has humankind.
Very much like Kreacher, many of us, when caught in others’ tensions or being persuaded to join in on a cause, do not see it as right versus wrong either. Rather, we would see it as who treats us better, because so often we are not.
History has already demonstrated that how society treats its vulnerable eventually comes back to them. The Holocaust and the ensuing World War II Nazi Germany incited, in the end, backfired. Amongst the lucky few who successfully escaped abroad, one of those, Albert Einstein, masterminded the atomic bomb that brought an end to the very conflict it created.
In recent years, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) recruited avalanches quite effortlessly. Over 40,000 comprised of ISIS’s foreign contingent. Amongst the Europeans, discrimination and harassment from their countrymen and security forces alike for wearing Muslim garb in public were common motives for joining. Similar reasons were cited amongst the Americans- they considered themselves repressed by the West, and wanted revenge. (for those who think education level also plays a role, the American ISIS contingent included several doctors and at least one computer engineer.) Revenge is also a common motive amongst Americans who spied against the United States in recent years.
This year, one of which was just a month ago, France suffered a series of terrorist stabbings. The suspects in two of the three attacks were Muslim. It should be noted that leading up to them, French president Emanuel Macron denounced their religion as “Islamist radicalism” and as one “in crisis.”
I am not saying that those mentioned in these examples merited their repercussions, and clearly some of them were not done for good. However, there is no denying that they did pay for their mistreatment towards particular groups. And as demonstrated in World War II, mistreatment can cost relationships with those who could be valuable allies in the future.
For those of us accustomed to ill-treatment, being lured by those who treat them better –good or bad — is as easy as falling into the temptation of gravity. See how they do not treat you nice? Come and join us, we will treat you better. This type of invitation is one too difficult to turn down when we are desperate to be recognized as equals, when we think for once we are understood without having to explain our predicaments.
How one treats others can hurt others, intentionally or not. Either way, it is a reflection on not the receiver of the action, but rather the one who does it.
This being said, I have had a positive encounter during this chaos. I had arrived at an elevator at the same time as another man. Wanting to avoid another confrontation. I immediately backed off and decided to wait for the next one.
To my surprise, he gestured me in, indicating there was room for both of us even while conforming to physical distancing protocols. We even managed friendly, polite talk before being dropped off at our intended locations.
He could not see it, with both of us masked up, but for the first time during the pandemic, I could feel my lips tilting upwards. For the first time during this pandemic, I felt welcome in a public space.
He may not have realized how significant a gesture that was to me, but I will always remember it.
 Silbert, Jake. “All NBA Playoff Games Delayed as Teams Protest Jacob Blake Shooting.” 26 Aug 2020.
 Shepherd, Anne and Molly D. Ellenberg. “ISIS in Their Own Words: Recruitment History, Motivations for Joining, Travel, Experiences in ISIS, and Disillusionment over Time — Analysis of 220 In-depth Interviews of ISIS Returnees, Defectors, and Prisoners” Journal of Strategic Security, Volume 1, Number 1, Article 5. 2020.
 Tucker, Patrick. “Why Do People Join ISIS? Here’s What They Say When You Ask Them.” Defense One. 8 Dec 2015.
 “The Americans: 15 Who Left the United States to Join ISIS.” NBC. 16 May 2016
 “Macron says Islam ‘in crisis’, prompting backlash from Muslims”. Al Jazeera. 2 October 2020.