Teen from Japan afraid to cough in public thanks to COVID-19

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Student Journalist Yu Hijiya at a Broadway show. File photo.

Mid-Hudson News has launched a “Student Journalist” section to allow elementary, middle, and high-school students to write essays or “news as they see it” for submission (details below).  The following is an essay from one of our “Student Journalists”, Yu Hijiya, who recently moved to the United States from Japan.

Ever since I was little, I always dreamed of living in America. I saw America as this country where everyone’s dreams come true, everyone’s rights were respected, and it was home to Disneyland (admit it, every kid once wanted to live there…)! Last year, my dream came true. Wow, I thought, I’m moving to… America! But the past few weeks have left me confused – where was the America I had imagined all my life?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed my view of this country by showing me that there are millions of people who are disregarded and forgotten in this country. Clearly, the pandemic has especially hit communities of color, LGBTQ+, disabled, working-class and low-income people hard. As the pandemic progresses, I have realized that people already living in precarious settings are hit harder. It makes me extremely distressed to see people being ignored by society and the fact that people than can be saved if there were enough protection and care towards them are dying. In particular, racism towards Asians around the world really hit me hard. Sure, I may be overreacting about this whole situation, but I’m sick of being scared to go outside even though I want to leave the house every once in a while for a quick walk. I feel as though coughing while being Asian is illegal. Honestly, looking back in history, I’m not really surprised by this prejudice and xenophobia. I guess some people always feel a need to put blame on somebody and that’s the nature of coping with something that is unprecedented. That is not to say this is acceptable though. This virus poses a threat to everyone, and unless we all come together, regardless of our background, we’re not going to be able to beat it.

Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided me with a new spectrum especially on child poverty. There are children in New York and around the country who don’t have food to eat, don’t have a warm bed and shower, don’t have internet, and their parents’ love. I was honestly very shocked when I found out that a large number of children around the country rely on school meals and the fact that school is the only place of protection. This was not the reality that I was exposed to previously, and it left me heartbroken. Sadly, the majority of kids suffering from all this are children of parents from traditionally marginalized communities – and they make up a majority of essential workers. Despite their high risk of exposure to COVID-19, they continue to work because they have no choice. If they don’t, who’s going to provide the necessities like food and pay the rent? Becoming aware of disparities in health care access and quality in the United States made me wonder, how could this be happening in America, the wealthiest country in the world, with $60.7 trillion in private wealth? Where and what is this money being used for? We must protect the essential workers so that they can stay with their children and families as soon as possible and buy medical professionals time.

I had never thought about how privileged I am to have a loving family and to be living in a state where leaders are showing true leadership, doing their best to protect their citizens rather than playing politics. My dream is to ensure everyone, especially children (because they’re the ones who really need care and compassion) can have the care they deserve in hard times like this. 

Though what I have shared with you here are serious, and it is the reality we must face, the important thing we must remember is that while handling all the changes COVID-19 has brought us is very stressful, it is not going to last forever (though it may feel like it). I’m just a high school junior and I am not American by nationality, but I really hope when this COVID-19 pandemic is gone, America will step up and truly acknowledge the priceless contributions of people from traditionally ignored and trivialized communities.

Stay kind to one another, and stay safe everyone!

About the author:
Yu Hijiya is 17-years old and she is a current junior at Harrison High School. Born in Tokyo, Japan, she moved to Harrison last summer and is proud to call New York her fourth home. In her free time, she sings musical songs, doodles, or religiously watches late-night shows. This is her first journalism/writing experience.
If you have a student that is interested in writing a submission, please send an email to Todd Bender at bender@midhudsonnews.com and ask for the submission requirements.