#COVIDCatLady, Day 48

Shanghai is allllllllmost back to normal. Almost. I actually got into the restaurant for my birthday dinner without anyone checking my temperature. We didn’t have to all sit on one side. Movie theaters are opening this Saturday, re-screening old movies like Pixar’s Coco or Wandering Earth. My gym is finally open (yay!). Delivery guys are being let through the neighborhood gates, where many of the signs and posters have been removed. The only ones left are the multilingual posters informing people that they need to quarantine after returning to Shanghai.

A non-issue now, seeing as China has banned everyone who is not a Chinese national from coming in. Not even if you had a residence permit. I don’t know of any other country who has banned foreign residents from returning, but that feels like a very aggressive move. The attention has shifted from domestic cases to imported ones, from Wuhan to Shanghai, one of China’s most international cities, but this isn’t pretty. Only 11% of the imported cases are foreign nationals. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m thinking my Mom won’t be able to celebrate her 60th birthday at Disneyland with me this year.

Again, a non-issue these days. I feel guilty AND grateful that I got to celebrate my birthday this year with friends in the middle of all this. But it was everything I didn’t dare hope it would be. Just a group of good people, sharing stories (somehow not ALL virus stories) and great food. Oh, and presents. Not gonna lie, I love presents. For the second time in my life, a dear friend gifted me a book I already own and had planned on reading, which is to me the best indicator that this friend knows me too well. The whole evening was a legitimate #BLESSED event. And when Roberto the chef startled me and guests with a very robust rendition of happy birthday, the one table of French expats in the corner joined in.

Back in the office, a colleague asked how I celebrated, and when I said we went to an Italian restaurant, he went, “An Italian restaurant? These days!?” I shot back, laughing, “Duuuuuuude, we JUST went through this ourselves, we can’t be doing it to other people!” To which he responded immediately, “yes yes, you’re right, I’m just worried for you.” And the conversation moved to the struggling restaurants in town.

And that, my friends, is this whole mess in a nutshell. We’re scared and worried. Racism was always there and will always be a battle. It’s just been brought to the fore because we’re scared. The enemy is invisible, so our minds want to assign blame to something concrete to make sense of the world. Avoiding Chinese/Italian restaurants or Corona beers, while silly, they’re just something you do to feel safe. We look for meaning and sometimes end up labeling everything wrong.

This isn’t to excuse racism. I don’t need to tell you racism is stupid. But for me, I find it easier to engage with someone when I try to see what’s driving their behavior instead of assigning the label “racist” immediately. To see the emotional need that got tangled up in propaganda or bias. That gives me just enough room to say “Duuuuuuuude” instead of “You f&$king racist” in these milder cases. That said, I also blocked and deleted someone this week when I realized my effort was wasted on him.

You gotta pick your battles, especially these days.

Despite Chinese nationals accounting for the vast majority of COVID-19 cases arriving from abroad, foreigners are being singled out as infection risks.

Foreigners Collateral Damage as China Curbs Imported Infections

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