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A Teen's Palo Alto

By Jessica Zang

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About this blog: I’m Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto-born, slightly cynical Gunn High School student who’s passionate about linking high school life to the bigger picture. What’s really going on in our high schools in Palo Alto? Everything a high ...  (More)

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How COVID-19 Affects Communities

Uploaded: Mar 25, 2020
When the coronavirus was first discovered, nobody expected it to blow up the way it did. In fact, the virus was not perceived as dangerous at all until it took lives in China and travelled to members of our county and community. The seemingly unpreventable spread of the virus can incite fear among individuals, instilling a sense of panic in our entire community.

Actions such as panic buying and hoarding reflect the fear we have that this epidemic will never end. Perpetrating this behavior confines valuable resources to our own homes, yet leaves those who may need it more defenseless and undersupplied. It’s reasonable to be more self-serving during these times, and it’s hard to share with others due to the fear of the virus. However, as a kind, caring, community, we should try to make an effort to think of others during this scary pandemic, not leave people without food supplies or things needed to shelter in place because they weren’t able to get to the supermarkets in time.

Yet, despite the instilled fear of the virus, community members are still fighting to do good. Members of Gunn High School have created a group called Gunn Cares, where people are made aware of opportunities where they are able to serve their community and help those in need. Community members all over Palo Alto offer their services to those who are immunocompromised or high risk. These brave and generous actions show the capacity for our community to rise up beyond the fear and selfish actions to care for those who are impacted most by this virus.

Even then, it’s difficult not to see the prejudice involving coronavirus. With blame spreading among members of the community, often racially charged, it’s easy to see division inside of communities, countries, and the world. But despite all of this, it’s important to see past the origins of the virus and respect everybody affected. Generalizing and putting blame on a nationality will not prevent the spread of the virus. Violent attacks of prejudice against any minorities will not aid those in need. It’s time to understand that standing together is what makes communities strong, not creating divisions and encouraging xenophobic hatred.

This virus has taught me a lot about human panic and fear. The vulnerability of people to a fearful virus often leads them to harbor blame and anger. Like many epidemics in the past, such as ebola and the Spanish flu, the origins of epidemics cause tense, racially charged discussions, despite the fact that diseases do not discriminate. People who have never even been to Wuhan or China experience discrimination and bias at the hands of those motivated by fear. Violent attacks have been reported around the world, and people are no longer safe, perhaps even in towns they have lived in their entire lives.

However, this virus has also shown me that this community, as well as our nation, is resilient and helpful in times of crisis. All around the world, people have been contributing to the efforts of providing resources to hospitals, donating food to those in need, and offering service to those who are at high risk. People all around the world are thinking of ingenious solutions to help others and offering their own time, money, and resources to make a real difference. Entrepreneurs, tutors, and engineers offer their services to help the public, free of financial motives. Despite all of the negative news coverage that we are often attracted to, these inspiring actions heavily outweigh any negative activity. They represent the unwavering light of human spirit, and our capacity to be generous and kind, and to sacrifice ourselves to help other people. COVID-19 affects us all, whether in big or small ways. Let this be a time for us to become a tighter-knit community and find ways to push past this virus, while remaining resilient and strong.
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Mar 26, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Some projects that would be worthwhile for high school students this spring:

1) compare the actions taken during this crisis to those taken in previous crises, such as Spanish flu, Depression, WWII, Vietnam War, 9/11, Katrina, California wildfires
--what can learn (good and bad) from the past

2) cross-cultural comparison of responses to COVID-19
-- what does the US do well and where do we fail?
-- what are the downsides of the vaunted American individualism and sense of entitlement?



 +   4 people like this
Posted by Brit, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Mar 26, 2020 at 7:05 pm

My grandfather, younger than 16, lied about his age so that he could join the army to fight for his country in WW1, 16 was the age to join but it was considered acceptable to hide one's age and join up. My other grandfather was in the merchant navy, but still in danger. My parents lived through WW2, suffering rationing and my uncle and aunt were sent away from London to the country to live with a family of strangers to get away from the bombs. All of them suffered educationally as a result.

Since then, there's been Korean War, Vietnam War, the draft, and 9/11.

What a difference! Yes, we are all in this together and it is bringing us closer together globally. Wars divided the world, the pandemic is bringing us closer. It is an interesting perspective.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by one idea, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 26, 2020 at 9:39 pm

In my former Midwest community, high school students, who are out of school and have more time, have volunteered to write letters to local nursing home residents, who are feeling isolated now that visitation is banned. The letters are, of course, communicated via email, and residents typically reply in kind. It would be wonderful if Palo Alto students organized something similar in our community.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 4:33 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "It's reasonable to be more self-serving during these times, and it's hard to share with others due to the fear of the virus."

Research in the latter 20th Century US (and other places) found that this was not true. People wanted to help. You see this on social media - for example, NextDoor - and neighborhood email lists. In an earthquake ... the ability to meet face-to-face with neighbors facilitates this. Absent that, you need some sort of pre-existing personal network. The Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN) Block Preparedness Coordinator (BPC) that started in the 200x's attempted to fill this gap, but died when the City of Palo Alto (CPA) decided not to participate in a State of California EXERCISE (Golden Guardian) based up terrorist bio-attack on a concert in San Jose which was not detected until after the attendees had dispersed. CPA decided that having only a few months to prepare was too little for meaningful participation.

Another factor is that the messaging from all levels of government about preparation was "You're On Your Own" (YOYO). The neighborhoods' BPC program was a pushback against this. I unsuccessfully tried to get the slogan "We're not a bunch of YOYOs" adopted (WANABOY??).

Some neighborhoods have people filling these roles.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 5:08 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "When the coronavirus was first discovered, nobody expected it to blow up the way it did. In fact, the virus was not perceived as dangerous at all until it took lives in China..."

FYI: Looking back into my YouTube viewing history, I find reports from Jan 18 and Jan 22 where the coronavirus in Wuhan was already recognized as a major pandemic threat ("Disease X"). It wasn't just the deaths but the intensity of the reactions by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) that indicated this was special.
However, if you were reading the US corporate media, you were unlikely to have seen any of this. Their focus was on impeachment and the upcoming Democratic Presidential Caucus in Iowa. The videos leaking out of Wuhan were very scary.

Jan 18: "Could this coronavirus be Disease X? Everything you need to know about the mystery virus in China" (Web Link)
Jan 22: "Is China Covering Up a Deadly New Virus?" (Web Link) - China Uncensored
Jan 31: Trump announces restrictions on travel from China


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 5:28 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "With blame spreading among members of the community, often racially charged, it's easy to see division inside of communities, countries, and the world."

1. Have you experienced discrimination related to COVIS-19? Or are you just echoing what you have heard from demagogues in the media (clickbait)?

2. When Trump announced the China travel restrictions, they were denounced as "racist" and "xenophobic". These were, or became, talking points of CCP propaganda media (also in Italy). Chinese-American faces were prominent in these denunciations which continued well past the size of the problem being obvious. I still occasionally encounter such in the media coverage. Consider how a US audience might perceive that.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 10:23 am

Jessica Zang is a registered user.

Hello all,

Thank you for expressing your thoughts on my blog post! Any and all comments are deeply appreciated.

chris, we are currently assigned some work similar to this in our history classes! It’s interesting how your great ideas reflected in our homework assignments at school.

As for one idea, you may be surprised to know that high schoolers have already done a project exactly as you’ve described! One such event was organized by Gunn High School’s YCS-Interact club, and I’ve written some letters myself! However, we aren’t able to reveal our information, so it would be difficult to create a pen-pal relationship.

Mr. Moran, I agree with many of your ideas! I have observed many people wanting to help their neighbors, friends, and even complete strangers. I hoped to convey these thoughts in my article. However, there is still hoarding and panic buying happening, so it’s hard not to face the fact that there are self-serving people during this time. And, it’s hard to condemn this as we want to preserve ourselves in times of crisis.

I also agree that many people knew of and were rightfully fearful of the virus when it was discovered. However, I have known many who believed that every action, even the precautions taken now, are overreactions. Not everybody is this knowledgeable and prepared, and I’ve heard many people calling ‘just another flu’, which I believe to be untrue.

Finally, I don’t think that you can say that racial, COVID-19 discrimination does not occur if you are not Chinese or Chinese-American yourself. Occurrences are often subtle, and I know that many people may blame Chinese-Americans or even Asian-Americans for this crisis. Chinese restaurants were hit hard during this period as people were afraid of diseased people working there, even if they had never been to China before. People were violently attacked in different cities, and people have told me about their Asian-American friends narrowly escaping beatings and being barred from resources due to their race. As someone who is lucky to live in Palo Alto, where the community is diverse and open-minded, the discriminations I’ve received are very mild. However, I am empathetic towards anyone whose personal stories of discrimination have been waved off by people who could never experience it themselves.

As a Chinese-American myself, I agree with your final point. Restricting travel from China is reasonable and a good safety precaution measure. There’s no reason for anybody to call these actions racist or xenophobic. The extremes go both ways, and I support neither of them. I think in today’s society it’s easy to create hostility and find fault in everything, but lashing out unfairly only creates more conflict and hurt feelings.

Thank you for reading my blog!
Jessica Zang


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 11:33 am

@D Moran

You are definitely correct about the news being ignored back in January/February.

The problem with American media is that it is very self-centered. When CNN started they had two channels, one was "around the world in 30 minutes" and was a good breakdown of what was happening, first major headline of the day, then national news but always an international news section too. This format was good because it gave a good breakdown of all news in a reasonable time with major news headlines on the 30 minute channel and in depth coverage on the other channel.

Since then all news outlets have formed a decided messy format. No real news headlines, just coverage of everything or anything deemed information for the American public. There are too many teasers before commercial breaks and if we decide to wait through the break to hear the teaser it may not be mentioned until after the subsequent commercial break.

To get real international perspective on not only international news but sometimes on our own American news, it is often better to use a channel such as BBC world news, France 24 English, or Sky News Australia. Reuters is also worth paying attention to.

Good luck to us all finding what we really should know rather than what the (US) media wants us to perceive. Real news is possibly a lost cause.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 11:41 am

Doug - quit getting your news from fringe youtube videos. (and why are you *still* deleting entire posts on your blog, just because they show your errors?)


Doug said: "... my YouTube viewing history, I find reports from Jan 18 and Jan 22 where the coronavirus in Wuhan was already recognized...
However, if you were reading the US corporate media, you were unlikely to have seen any of this."


Meanwhile, in the reality based world, the rest of us have google and can look at newspapers on January 18.


New York Times (just a single example found in a minute on google:)
"On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States announced that airports in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles would begin screening passengers from Wuhan for the virus."


"you were *unlikely* to have seen any of this"


I posit that folks are far more *likely* to find news in the major news outlets, than in fringe corners of social media.


That said - I personally find your first entry above ("people wanted to help") the most reasonable post of yours, that I have seen.



 +   6 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 11:44 am

> BBC world news, France 24 English, or Sky News Australia. Reuters is also worth paying attention to.

Agreed. Add in the Guardian, Al Jezeera, etc.. to round out the mix.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 5:21 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Jessica:
On prejudice against Chinese:
First an analogy: If you have had a night-out in a big city downtown and you are walking to transit, do you take a shortcut down the proverbial "dark alley" or does your route keep you on well-lighted sidewalks with plenty of other pedestrians? Fewer people eating in Chinese restaurants can be the result of similar risk assessments: If one is trying to avoid places that have a higher probability of having been visited by someone from China or by someone who has recently returned from China, wouldn't Chinese restaurants be high on that list? And the infected person doesn't have to be present when you are: They could have left germs on a surface there or could have earlier infected someone there, both staff and customers. There are many in this epidemic who are being severely damaged through no fault of their own.

You have the misfortune to have grown up in a time when there are some people who seek out ways to be offended and they have infected those around them with reduced versions of this.
See this in your comment: "I know that many people secretly blame Chinese-Americans..." The word "secretly" means that *you* have attributed those beliefs to others without evidence.
"I don't think that you could observe any racial, COVID-19 discrimination, or even notice it, if you were not Chinese or Chinese-American yourself. Occurrences are often subtle..."
This was the preface to "secretly" and illustrates an attitude that is increasingly prevalent in various places that discrimination and bias are not what is intended, but what is perceived. If others don't notice the slight because it is so subtle, how does one know it was intended?

Aside: England has taken this a step further in that a comment by one person to another can be classified as a "hate incident" if a person not part of the conversation claims that it is, even though the people in the conversation say it isn't. The police can become involved, or may even be the ones initiating the "hate incident" complaint. My 2018-05-01 blog "Mocking Nazis is a crime in Britain: Free Speech #1" (Web Link) presented a few now-old instances, but it has gotten worse.

In US law, intention is often a crucial component of determining whether a crime has been committed. Perception/attribution of intent is dismissed as nothing more than speculation. In Cognitive Based Therapy for various mental health issues, attribution of intent to others is one of the big categories of errors to be overcome.

If you are interested, look for the terms "Honor culture" vs "Dignity Culture". Honor culture demands that you respond to any insults (slights?) to your "honor" and results in violent societies, including dueling and multi-generational feuds. Examples: "Romeo and Juliet", the Hatfields and McCoys. In a dignity culture, justice becomes the focus, with others determining when someone has harmed you in a way and to a degree that warrants a societal response. Some of the cultural divides in the US are a legacy of the honor/dignity approach: Honor culture dominated the Southeast before the Civil War, tapering down after it. For example, duels were uncommon in the North by 1800 -- Hamilton-Burr duel occurred in NJ because dueling was illegal in NY -- but they were still common in the South in the 1850s and 1860s.

=============
> "People were violently attacked in different cities,"
Be careful. The media has a long history of turning what are a few isolated events into a trend. One famous example was when local newspapers started reporting murders from all over the US -- while the local murder rate was essentially unchanged, people came to believe the rate was much higher and perceived themselves as much less safe.

> "people have told me about their Asian-American friends narrowly escaping beatings and being barred from resources due to their race."
Again, be careful of such second-hand reports. There are notoriously distorted in the retelling, or even fabricated, because people want to contribute to a conversation about a trending topic.

=============
Disclaimer: I am definitely not saying that there isn't prejudice or racially-based violence against people of Chinese ancestry. I am encouraging people to be more careful about how they describe it. For example, take the recent severe beating of an elderly Chinese-American collecting recyclable by two(?) African-Americans. The videos didn't show that COVID-19 had any role in inspiring the violence. Although ethnic slurs were used, the ethnicity of the victim may have been largely irrelevant but only an excuse for the thugs to attack a vulnerable person who was from outside that neighborhood.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 5:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Addendum:
If (generic) you believe you are being discriminated against,
you ACT as if you are being discriminated against.
This signals to others that you perceive yourself to be an outsider.
This signals to them that you regard them as outsiders relative to yourself.
They cannot trust you to have expected in-group behaviors toward them.
Consequently, in-group members are legitimately favored over you.

Summary: The path from unwarranted discrimination to warranted discrimination can be a slippery one, and getting off it can be difficult.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 6:33 pm

Jessica Zang is a registered user.

Hello Mr. Moran!

I agree with many of your points. I definitely agree that not eating at Chinese restaurants is a good risk assessment and there is nothing wrong with that. It seems like I have mis-phrased or mis-worded my sentences, and I agree that I shouldn't perceive any bias or prejudice when it is not there.

There are many of your points that I wholeheartedly agree with. However, dismissing all forms of racial prejudice against people as overreactions, exaggerations, or fake news is simply not reasonable. Despite the fact that yes, there are many times where incidents are falsely reported or exaggerated, there is an undeniable wave of unease regarding Asian Americans and Asian people around the world.

For reference to a list of COVID-19 related incidents, see this (sourced) website:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_of_xenophobia_and_racism_related_to
_the_2019%E2%80%9320_coronavirus_pandemic

The sheer number and weight of this list should show you that these pandemic-related racially involved incidents are not an effect of my imagination or beliefs, but in actuality, very real and very harmful.

As for your final example, the usage of racial slurs means that there was racial prejudice involved. There are other offensive things to say that do not involve race or ethnicity, yet the perpetrators chose to use racial slurs.

Thank you so much for reading!
Jessica Zang


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 8:56 pm

As Doug Moran has made some valid points in his post about racism, it is worth stating that there is often a case made for any crime across races to be racially motivated. Of course there are cases where that may be the case, but the assumption has now become that if the victim of a crime is a different race to that of the perpetrator then it must be due to racism. This of course is hard to argue against regardless of whether there is any evidence to suggest this as a motive.

As described in the case above where the elderly gentleman was beaten up. If this had been a case where the victim and the perpetrators were of the same race, regardless of which race it was, there would be many possibilities for the motivation, however when there are different races involved these other possibilities are ignored.

This is a bad attitude. It means that real investigations are not being made when crimes occur and it also means that real journalism is not taking place. It is easy to blame any type of incident on racial motivation as the easy option. Digging deeper, the real motive and perhaps the real reason for the crime should be discovered. Is this to do with gangs, drugs, organized crime syndicates, trafficking, or whatever. As soon as the police say "hate crime" investigation ends and perhaps the "crime bosses" are able to get away to do the same another day. Any time a reporter reports on a crime rather than asking the deeper questions, journalism is turned into a joke.

After all, perhaps those lights and people breaking into Watergate were really only the cleaners who had forgotten their key.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 28, 2020 at 11:20 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Hope this helps you pass such perspectives into your community of pre-adults and doesn't provide too much cynicism (re: your "About")

> "the usage of racial slurs means that there was racial prejudice involved."

Disagree. Expressions of racial animus are but one of the uses of racial slurs. Another common use is as one of the techniques to make opponents so angry that they do self-defeating stupid things. Similarly for intimidating the target. This is definitely not to excuse such uses. Rather, one of my boyhood lessons was that you needed to develop the self-discipline to handle these and other emotional manipulations -- they were inevitable and unavoidable. "Don't get angry/mad, get even. Don't get even, get ahead."

> "... However, dismissing all forms of racial prejudice against people as overreactions, exaggerations, or fake news is simply not reasonable. Despite..."

Jessica, Notice that this can be read as your believing that I claimed this, which I most definitely did not. I urged "caution".
From the Wikipedia page that you cited, in the second paragraph "40,000 people signed a petition to expel two students from Bolsa Grande High School after they were seen in videos bullying Vietnamese-American students." So was it the 40K petition-signers were being accused of being xenophobic (the natural reading of the sentence) or the bullies (the more sensible reading)?
If one consults the citation, it is the latter. Unfortunately, the citations tend to disappear after several re-uses.
Re-iterating from above: Bullying is a big problem in many schools and the ethnicity of the victim(s) may be irrelevant and the words used simply convenient or the ones that the victims or crowd are reacting to.

My experience in looking at such lists is to expect them to be inflated by 10-30% -- more than that is too obvious. Recognize that a common motive of those publishing the lists is to motivate contributions to their organizations and thus they have the motive/need to exaggerate.
For example, in a list of incidences of Far-Right Violence (ADL?, SPLC?), of the first 3 entries I sampled, one was a man who happened to belong to a rightwing organization killed his ex-wife's boyfriend, with no suggestion of politics. Within a couple more entries was a man who killed someone during a store robbery.
In a list of "school shootings" was one of someone on campus hearing a shot fired in the distance. Another was a suicide on the grounds of a former school.
I don't expect you to have this level of cynicism -- it is earned over the years.

> "The sheer number and weight of this list should show you that these pandemic-related racially involved incidents are not an effect of my imagination or beliefs ..."
Not criticizing your beliefs, but cautioning you about being too trusting of reports. Everyone involved may skew things to be part of a trend to get more attention, and this includes the perpetrators, the victims and those telling the stories.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 29, 2020 at 7:13 am

Reading these comments (again) it is worth underscoring the point made by an early post.

Many previous generations have been defined by war and war separates, uniting one group against against another group, but the war defines their youth and turns them into the adults they become

For this generation, they will be remembered as the generation defined by a common worldwide group against a pandemic as the enemy. It is up to the youth to rise above the common enemy which is the virus, be united against it, be united with their global peers, and become the better generation for it.

Forget the negatives in this, there are thousands of people recovering worldwide. This next generation should be defined as a caring, noble generation for coming through this if not unscathed but as reaching a maturity that others have only reached through war and division. This is Jessica's generation's opportunity to be defined.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 29, 2020 at 1:05 pm

Jessica Zang is a registered user.

Hi All!

Mr. Moran,

I completely agree that oftentimes the media is prone to exaggeration. As such, I will take more caution, as you advised, in regarding such matters.

I would also like to respectfully point out that one faulty example cannot be evidence to dismiss the entire list. While I agree that some examples may be exaggerations, having this extensive list indicates that this type of discrimination does exist. Real people are facing it around the world. While many cases may not be caused by race, many others are, and this simply cannot be ignored.

I truly appreciate all of your insight. Even these few comments have taught me a lot about trusting the media and learning from members of the community, like you! Thank you for your profound insight and healthy discussion.

Resident,

I agree with you! I do think that from now on I should be more aware of the perspectives used to spread information. I’m also glad you brought up viewing the pandemic in a more positive light! There have already been so many important efforts made to help others during the community, which should be highlighted and celebrated, just as you said.

Thanks again!
Jessica


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Crescent, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 29, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Douglas Moran, are you just not happy enough staying in your own little pompous blog where you can condescend, insult, censor or delete comment to your heart's content?


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Mar 29, 2020 at 6:18 pm

> where you can condescend, insult, censor or delete comment to your heart's content?

Yup. He comes out here and lies about mainstream media not covering things, and it takes a minute of googling to refute the claim and his example in its entirety. (see above: "Meanwhile, in the reality based world, the rest of us have google and can look at newspapers on January 18.")

All those corrections simply disappear on his 'blog'. But his fringe youtube-finds? They appear to stand unassailed, sans the (deleted, edited or censored) corrections..


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