Being disabled and Asian in America, how does it feel?

Since former President Donald Trump began calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu,” Asians and Asian Americans across the country have faced an increasingly wide range of discrimination. Not so long ago, 8 people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. Six of the victims were Asian. It led to dozens of rallies calling for an end to anti-Asian violence throughout the United States. However, the discrimination against Asian could be traced back to the 1870s, when Chinese immigrants were made out to be “medical scapegoats” as diseases such as cholera, smallpox, and yellow fever took hold of cities in California. The discrimination against Asians is even harsher nowadays, especially on Asian Americans who identified as being disabled. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 21 million Asian Americans identify as being disabled. Their lives are not easy.

Currently, I read a story about Miso Kwak who is a disabled Korean immigrant. When Miso moved from Seoul, Korea to New York, it took her a long time to adapt to the new education system and speak English fluently. Miso’s parents expected her to get into a prestigious university and get a job to be at the top of the social class. Her parents even told her, “Because you have a disability, you have to work harder than people who don’t have a disability.” Miso sometimes lost herself under the pressure given by her parents, but she finally found her connection to the world and her true identity after taking Disability Studies courses in college. Miso found the place that belongs to her in this world. She started to stand out and advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act. She started to embrace her disability and identity.

Miso says, “I hope to be a bridge that connects not only my parents and America, but also the disabled and nondisabled, immigrants and those who were born in America, and the disability community and immigrant community.” Personally, Miso’s story resonated with me. As an international student from China, being labeled as “naturally good at math and science” or “technically competent” is not unusual. Sometimes I lose myself in the crowd. Who am I? What is my identity? These questions always pop up in my head. Just like Miso, I hope all of us can find our true selves, start to build our bridges, and connect the bridge with people around us.

Above image is a headshot of Miso Kwak


“This Is What Asian Americans Are Feeling Right Now.” Spectrum News NY1,

Lu, Wendy. “What It's Like Being Disabled And Asian In America.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 24 May 2019,

Wong, Alice. “Building Bridges as a Disabled Korean Immigrant.” Disability Visibility Project, 27 July 2020,

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