By Jessica Easthope
Seeing the world through Teresa Xue’s eyes, at 11 years old, it consists of family, school, church and friends. Yet, she’s not blind to the hate that’s directed at people who look like her.
“With all this craziness going on, people start to relate this pandemic to Asians creating Asian hate,” she said. “I don’t feel good about it.”
At Teresa’s school, St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Flushing, Queens, she gets to be totally herself: proudly Chinese and Catholic.
“I can learn both about my religion and study deeper about it while still having my Chinese roots and keeping a part of that as well,” said Teresa.
The school is 70 percent Asian, but regardless of ethnicity, students have just as many classes in Mandarin as they do in English. They learn Asian history and culture. It’s a safe haven from the bigotry sometimes found on New York City’s streets.
“So many students come to school with their grandparents and are they going to be targeted? What are they learning?” said school Principal Maureen Rogone. “We’re teaching peace. We’re teaching acceptance and what they’re seeing outside. It contradicts what we’re about.”
Sister Mary Ruan, the coordinator for Chinese outreach at the school, says she’s never experienced religious freedom before coming to the United States and this recent rash of hate crimes brings her back to the days when she felt she needed to hide who she was.
“In Fujian it’s very difficult, culturally,” Sister Mary said. “It’s hard now, currently.”
But when new families enroll at the school, Sister Mary makes them feel at home.
“I always try to introduce myself and say I’m from China, and when they see I speak Chinese, they feel comfortable,” said Sister Mary.
At St. Michael’s, education is the response – it’s hoping to grow a community where Asian culture, language and values are celebrated not hated.