MOSF 19.3: Faces/Places: Late Night In-Flight Thoughts Returning from my 40th High School Reunion at Cranbrook Kingswood

Memoirs of a Superfan 19.3: Faces/Places: Late Night In-Flight Thoughts Returning from my 40th High School Reunion at Cranbrook Kingswood

by Ravi Chandra
June 15, 2024

I hope you enjoy these reflections. If you scroll to the very end, past the final photographs, you will also find my videopoem short, “CitizenShip of Mixed Emotions,” which has been presented by two film festivals so far this year.

Orpheus Fountain, Cranbrook Academy of Art. The souls of the dead hearing the music of Orpheus…

Noted psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Salman Akhtar says that immigration entails a loss of place, of physical environment, more than a loss of people. He says if you have a crazy friend in Mumbai, you will have a crazy friend in Michigan. People are essentially fungible, he implies, and what can never be replaced is the red post office box or the horizontal traffic light or the baobab tree.

Now I love Dr. Akhtar, and he’s an elegant and sensitive spokesperson of the hidden psyche, but this idea struck me as totally bizarre and even narcissistic when I first heard it over a decade ago, and also when it was repeated in a recent seminar of The Asian American Center for Psychoanalysis. I can adapt to place, I think. It’s the people who are irreplaceable.

Can you imagine saying, “Auntie, I don’t really miss you, but could you send me a picture of the post box on the corner?” 

Perhaps Dr. Akhtar is right to emphasize or over-emphasize places over faces. Perhaps we should be implored to cherish our surroundings more than we do, given the threats they face. But…really? Doesn’t our tenderness for people ultimately bring us closer to our ideals of society and social beauty?

My dormmaster Rich Lamb was also my chemistry and computer science teacher, and one of the nicest men you could ever meet.

But it really is a faces-places complex, isn’t it, akin to the faces-vases illusion. 

Faces and places are compounded into an enveloping whole, and we are constantly doing the best we can as both faces and places change, as we change, as all of it expands and reveals new meaning, flipping between perspectives until they merge. We are always migrating. Change, loss, growth: all occur continuously. Perhaps all we can feed is our capacity to be with it all, and to cultivate some semblance of self that observes, holds, and responds.

I am not conscious of my first migration, from South India to Deep South America, but I’ve moved many times since then – from Tuskegee to Nashville to St. Louis to Flint to Westland, Royal Oak, and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; and then to college in Providence, medical school in Palo Alto, internship in Minneapolis, and psychiatric residency and practice in San Francisco, with stints in Augusta and Rome, Georgia. That’s not counting other travels across the globe, temporary migrations that compressed joy and travail as well.

I’ve told people that I think my brain came developed for many times the 150 or so relationships that British anthropologist Robin Dunbar tells us we can reasonably hold in mind, because I’m Indian, and 150 relationships might only account for immediate and extended family in the motherland. We have needed many, many more neurons to manage all the people our Indian evolution has prepared us to meet on street, village, city, nation, and heavens.

Kingswood dorms common area. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

It’s why our gods have so many heads. How else to keep track?

What I impute as my evolutionary inheritance translates to a slightly-to-very empty head, here in America, and is part of the reason that loneliness has been a frequent companion. I’ve got all this space between my ears, waiting to be filled by a world. Post boxes won’t do the trick. 

Or maybe I just haven’t met the right post box, Dr. Akhtar. 

My neurons keep reaching, and the people who find their way into my head tend to grow in size, like giants, spiked or pillowy, intimidating hard-edged mountains or inviting otherworldly seas, and I end up thinking about them, missing them, and dreaming about or sometimes fearing reunion. 

Kingswood stairs and bench. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

I don’t think I’m that different from most other people in my history of loneliness, though. I once read that the most common thought that meditators have in the West is “why don’t they call?” You always notice that, when you’re on the cushion, alone, and a part of me is always on the cushion, alone. The intensity of the pandemic forced me to feel my connections, disconnections, and suffering more strongly than ever before. What has emerged is a more ambient and pervasive sense of presence such that all my relations are more dear and felt, and not just missed or anguished over. Mitakuye oyasin. We are all related. 

I also think I’ve developed a better tolerance of absence, ambivalence, and ambiguity, at least on my better days.

The jittery WiFi of our hearts can find the stable router of our big-S Self, and maybe even selflessness. (Cue my stereotypical South Asian soul-tech support.)

“Aim High!” The Cranbrook motto, drawn from a Greek legend of the gods tipping an archer’s arrow with fire. PG-rated logo version on right, lol.

It helped that in 2019, the year before the COVID pandemic, I went back for my college and high school reunions for the first time since graduating in 1989 and 1984, respectively. The river of continuity flowing from those times into the now expanded into a comforting, warm, ocean of — can I call it “belonging,” just yet? Well, more belonging, at least, since the possibility of exclusion, expulsion, and even deportation loom for me as a minoritized, “naturalized” immigrant, should Stephen Miller and Donald Trump have their way with my dissident ass. As good as it gets, at this point of world-historic time.

The Kingswood motto, at variance with Cranbrook’s: “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” Well, the girls did aim high too, and the boys also went forth to serve. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

I went back again to the Detroit suburbs and Providence this May and June, for my 40th high school and 35th college reunions. I am privileged to have gone to elite schools that have reunions: Cranbrook Kingswood High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, then the township with the highest per capita income in the country due to the resident auto industry executives; and Brown University, which is, well, Brown.

Images from Hogwarts… er, Cranbrook. Photos by Ravi Chandra.

My high school reunions were most emblematic of the faces-places perceptual illusion over time, the daunting faces of my peers and my crippling lack of self-esteem alternating with the beauty of place back then, and only much later all three ripening into mature balance. At both high school and college reunions, a spontaneous question erupted into consciousness from the depths: “do I belong here?” I never, then or now, walked around like I owned the place, or was envisioned there by the founders, like some of my classmates seemed to. I think I wrote a depressed essay or two in high school around that existential angst, feeling unwanted and even despised by the ground itself. Was that America? My father’s abandonment? Or just me and my big, complicated, disproportionate feels? Too bad my high school psychologist was more interested in starting up a computer lab than in doing any kind of counseling.

My mom moved back to the Deep South when I was in high school, and in anticipation, she/we decided on Cranbrook High School for Boys, a boarding school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which was then partnered with Kingswood School for Girls. (They merged into a “co-ordinated campus” as I was graduating, though much of the first half of high school is still separated by gender.) My public junior high school counselor (and 9th grade was optionally part of junior high in Livonia, Michigan), probably perplexed with my combinations of heretofore unnamed immigrant, racial, and family woes said, “well, maybe that’s what you need.” It was, and it wasn’t. After a pretty strong performance as a Cranbrook 10th grader, I went home to Alabama and basically withered. I was overwhelmed with social comparisons with classmates who seemed to have it all together, particularly one of them. I imagined myself his “shadow,” and withdrew into a private darkness. 

Cranbrook dining room at reunion. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

To my eyes, my classmates were finely tuned performance machines with well-resourced families, including fathers who directed their reading and learning, who seemingly had no self-doubts. Self-doubts and insecurities made me up from molecules to mitochondria to woeful lack of musculature. This year, another classmate and then-friend recently said, in her commencement address to the graduating Kingswood girls’ Class of 2024, that she’d “gotten a sense of self” in high school.

“Oh, you were the one,” I said to myself as I listened. “Did I miss the memo where they told us where that’d be handed out?”

You. Must. Go. See. Inside Out 2. Here’s part of the journey of the Sense of Self. Boy would this have helped me back then! See references for my just published review at Psychology Today.

Did I go to Cranbrook Kingswood or Cringebrook Kingswoe? 

Uhhh… I guess this next section is me interrogating myself under a hot light. Photos by Ravi Chandra.

These are a few of the high school cringes I carried, some of which kept me from going back to any reunion before 2019.

The withering mentioned above, which left me with a quantum field of regrets and a crushing sense of inferiority rather than a sense of self.

The painful feeling that no one really understood my hurts then. Children suffer, and we seemed to all be in denial of that.

My part in this: my silent retreats from relationship, that left many not really knowing me, and me not knowing myself, though I managed to put on a good show.

My avoidance of trying out for Oklahoma! my junior year, because I knew the faculty director had me pegged to play the accented traveling salesman. The part went to another Asian American who did play him with an over-the-top accent, while I didn’t even have the voice to name the racism I felt. I leaned away from the arts and writing, because both forced anxieties out into a world I thought unwelcoming, and I diverged from a path that could have taken me … to where I am, but sooner, I suppose. 

Kingswood weaving studio and dress forms. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

I was asked to write the review of Oklahoma! and I caught serious flak because I left out a full appreciation of the entire cast, crew, and production company. I think I spent weeks cringing and apologizing, and some told me I had been somehow set up for failure by an envious co-editor. Oh, the drama. But yes, my mistake.

My “star turn” as the Mayor in Ibsen’s Enemy of the People directed by a senior during my junior year. I was so nervous that I proclaimed the outspoken Doctor a “people of the enemy” instead of vice versa, and my classmate said that my catchphrase “moderation, moderation!” was perfect. “That’s who you are!” he said. Those words were a gut punch, because I had a fiery doctor within, in case you couldn’t tell from all my subsequent writing and activity in the world. He thought I was a stereotypically moderate Asian American, and didn’t know the range of my suppressed rage. (For suppressed rage, note memories of a classmate who proclaimed that a black student was only doing well “because he had white blood in him,” and the classmate who declared that the only reason I got into Brown was “because of affirmative action.” He later apologized, and I forgave him, noting he was just disappointed…and he might have been right, that I was a recipient of affirmative action, which I continue to support, see references.) 

Didn’t anyone see the real me, or who I ached to be? What kept me from it? My commitment to being a shadow and in the shadows, doing my shadow work? Anchored by my cringe?

Kingswood hallway. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

Most prominently, distressingly, and as yet unhealed: the night our worst selves took control, our own miniature Vincent Chin/Lord of the Flies incident, in the belly of our nascent Asian American communal identity, at our fraught, traumatic umbilical root. I am disclosing this publicly for the first time. Our group of all Asian American boys’ staffed the yearbook our senior year, and we were way behind schedule. I was a late addition to the team. We had thrown ourselves into night-after-night of all-nighters. Near the end of that run, the junior in our group, S, had fallen dead asleep on our basement office couch. A senior, the artist amongst us, chortled as he drew on S’s face with a sharpie, giving him an inked mustache, beard, scar, and other stigmata. I watched. We all watched, I think we all laughed as well. I can’t remember if anyone raised a note of protest. S awoke, and we all went home for a brief nap before classes. S, his classmate G, and I went to our dorm rooms, and the others to their nearby homes in posh Bloomfield Hills. As I climbed the stairs to my third floor room, G said “I’m going to turn off S’s alarm,” implying that S would wake up late and go to class without washing up. I don’t think it registered on me, but even if it did, I allowed it access to a future. S woke up, ran to class, and was humiliated in front of his peers. Our actions were indefensible and mean, but I think it took days or maybe even weeks for my sleep-deprived, still-shy-of-full-cortex brain to acknowledge the harm, and my role in it. S apparently later wrote about the incident for his college essay, but I had long since lost touch with him, as I lost touch with most of my classmates. The incident could have pushed him into death, and it did push him into anguish. I imagine he carried a very deep scar for years. I hope he’s ok. I think we were all disciplined with community service by a horrified and outraged faculty, but I can’t recall. I can’t recall if I ever apologized to S. I wish I could now, but I have not yet found a trace of him, though I have tried several times over the years.

Kingswood stairwell and windows. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

We were all Asian American, we were all amongst the highest achievers in our school, and we’d been unforgivably cruel to one of our own. It was undoubtedly our own vicious competitiveness, shame and self-hatred, projected onto S, giving him a “mask” he didn’t deserve, because we were wearing masks too. He was our scapegoat, our anointed victim shamed in the public stocks. We roughhoused our alter, because it was easier than facing our own vulnerability. Easier to be exploiter than exploited, not mature enough yet to fully be helper and helped. We were uncomfortable with our own ugliness, fearful of our own status as borderline outcastes, so we made him ugly and outcaste instead. Victim-perpetrators are often the worst bullies. Our silence, sleep deprivation, and unconsciousness gave cruelty, alive and kicking in our inmost, a permission structure. This, and other incidents I heard about but didn’t participate in, were as bad as the incident involving then-Cranbrook student Mitt Romney and his gay classmate in the 1960s, highly publicized during his 2012 presidential campaign, also on our beautiful campus. (See references.) The fact that I reached out, befriended and companioned a brutally bullied, slight waif of a Chinese American freshman during my senior year doesn’t make up for the ignominy of the incident with S. This was all in our nascent male Asian American community, our best to worst in dissociated fragments, though I hadn’t even named my Asian American identity yet. We had insufficient conscience and self-awareness. We suffered a collective lapse in judgment, and we hurt someone.

Cranbrook Boys’ School. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

Mitt Romney has become one of our strongest anti-bullies, in opposing Donald Trump, but this stands in unresolvable contrast with his youthful self, at odds with itself in various accounts. I can’t help but feel the parallels between our incident with S, Romney’s bullying of John Lauber, and America’s permission structure for the once-and-possibly-future tyrant-in-chief, Donald Trump. Trump is a bully who never grew out of it, and a large number of us are willing to hand him a crown and scepter. What of our interior will rule our days? What of our innermost civil war, our nuclear nucleus, will out? What will this say about us? We see reflections of the “abuser-victim” dyad, the “exploiter-exploited” pairing, in all conflicts of abusive power, including what’s happening in Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine. These pairings can even occur as a split within an individual psyche, as a person struggles with addiction or self-hatred.

Cowardice can mask as bravado and grandiosity, by becoming the bully, or siding with and amplifying him. When will we fully transform the “abuser-victim” dyad to “helper-helped”?

What does it say of us that we speak to this day of our Senior prank, when we carried a 15 foot long stegosaurus statue from the Institute of Science to the Quad in the dead of night, but we don’t speak of the things that should shame and chasten us, the things that truly need reparation? We were not, and are not, all glory.

The famed Stegosaurus Prank of 1984.

My supposed “moderation” in those early years was the most powerful muscle I had. I’d had to suppress a mountain range of internal and interpersonal conflict just to get by, but that mountain tripped me up, by and by.

Some faculty had wanted to give me a particularly prestigious award, but in the end they were voted down by others who judged but didn’t understand my academic ups and downs, which would continue into college and medical school, until suppressed, involuted emotion turned into superpower instead of stumbling block, and I began a long process of inner healing through engagement with inner and environmental wounds, an engagement which continues productively to this day. Besides that, I didn’t really deserve that award, for all the reasons mentioned. There were many, many others who did.

Europa and the Bull. Carl Milles. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

I know I’m not the only one who struggled, then or now, and that fact humbles me on a daily basis. At least one classmate attempted suicide in the dorms. Another had multiple psychotic breaks. Many, including me, spun out into unrecognized depression. Many kids felt abandoned to the dorms by their parents. Three more male classmates have been lost to suicide since we graduated, the latest just two months ago. That’s three out of a graduating class of about 90 boys, and even one would have been too many.

I am one of the lucky ones. So are all those who made it back to Cranbrook Kingswood for our 40th. From our school song back then, written in 1872, which many other prep schools shared:

Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along,
Follow up! Follow up! Follow up!
Till the field ring again and again,
With the tramp of the twenty-two men.
Follow up! Follow up!…

Forty years on, growing older and older,
Shorter in wind, as in memory long,
Feeble of foot, and rheumatic of shoulder,
What will it help you that once you were strong?
God give us bases to guard or beleaguer,
Games to play out, whether earnest or fun;
Fights for the fearless, and goals for the eager,
Twenty, and thirty, and forty years on!
Follow up! Follow up! Follow up!
Till the field ring again and again,
With the tramp of the twenty-two men.
Follow up! Follow up!

The Triton Pool, Cranbrook Academy of Art with Europa and the Bull in the background. Carl Milles. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

Unlike a Harvard graduate who took her 30th reunion as a research project about her classmates’ quirks, what works in life, and probably what she could sell to her editor friends at The Atlantic (see references), I went back for my 35th high school reunion mostly to face my fears and “do all the things” before it was too late. I went back for my 40th because I enjoyed re-friending some pretty wonderful, warm-hearted people, and really wanted to see them again.

My appreciation for the place deepened and flowed tremendously alongside my love of the people, their faces and depths. My neurons welcomed all of this, and the river of me felt more whole, continuous, and grateful.

Oh my…..

This year, my friend Arash brought back copies of our old school newspaper, and I read my own articles with disbelief – “I could write that well? Did anyone furiously edit me behind the scenes?” My “knockout article” was actually about the place – a review of an exhibit about the Cranbrook Educational Community campus. I had entirely forgotten this article, but there it was, my name in the byline.

Cranbrook Kingswood is an design marvel and a natural wonderland, courtesy of architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen, the founding Booth family, and sculptor Carl Milles, and also courtesy of the Anishanabe, Ottawa, and Potawatami peoples who stewarded the land we occupied, though we did not speak of it at the time – our silence part of our great, inescapable American cringe. 

The main Cranbrook Phallus… err, Academic building. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

My photographs can give you a taste, but imagine spending three years here, and carrying its imprint on your soul… Dr. Akhtar’s message of the nostalgia of place rings true, 40 years on. I became a photographer on this campus, and it awakened a sense of awe and beauty which has been a constant friend all my days, probably more so than a sense of self. Our newspaper faculty advisor, Dr. Jeffrey Welch, led us on a tour of the Boys’ school, and read one of the inscriptions next to my sophomore dorm: “Beauty leads to truth as sparks fly upwards.” I was surrounded by beauty, including those wonderful friends almost all of whom I resolutely lost touch for 35 years. This surround of beauty, faces and places, has undoubtedly overwhelmed the feared ugliness I carried within, and have reminded me that I too have beauty, as do all. 

Would that they know it.

Dr. Jeffrey Welch leading a tour of Cranbrook.

My returning classmates were marvels themselves. We spoke of careers and families and movements from practically across the street to around the world. We had travelled near and far, yet we returned. We hung out and reminisced, and I felt the old feelings of loss and being left out in moments, unremembered and unremembering, but these were quickly rescued by conversations of heart that allowed us to go there, to that deep, underlying space of total acceptance that is everlasting friendship. If we had to do it all over again, we’d want to know these people, wouldn’t we? This, but sooner, and better; without end, and to greater ends.

Reunion album cover: “Above Us Only Sky” by Cringe and The Unstoppables. L to R: Bruce, Debbie, Chris, Karima, Ravi, Chika, Kendall, and Anita. Photo by my iPhone I guess. At the Kingswood Lake. Yes, we had a lake.

Among us were those who had defused bombs for a living; medical scientists; leaders in business and finance; artists; dancers; teachers; many doctors, including a brain surgeon (our rocket scientist did not attend); many moms and dads; therapists, both physical and mental; those who volunteered most of their time around the world; and all around, a very good batch. May the force be with us. Here’s a sample of other alums from CK:

Taro Yamasaki, a Japanese American Cranbrook alum from the Class of 1964 and son of the World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, the year before Vincent Chin was murdered. The prize was for his photography and documentary reporting inside Jackson Prison, then the largest walled prison in the world. His online gallery includes photos of children in the occupied Palestinian town of Hebron; his photographic interests are indicative of deep humanitarian concerns.

Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers and is from the Class of 1948.

Elissa Slotkin, Kingswood Class of 1994, is one of Michigan’s Congressional Representatives and a current candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Renee Elise Goldsberry, Kingswood Class of 1989, won a 2016 Tony (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) for playing Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton.

Me and Daniel Ellsberg, 2019. Ellsberg passed away in 2023.

A good batch indeed.

I am a sentimental man, derided in youth for being the “feeling man who weeps” instead of the “thinking man who laughs,” who knows now that “every wise person is at least a little sad.” And knowing now that I appreciate myself and am appreciated by others for thoughtfulness, feelings, whatever I have cultivated of conscience, and … humor.

Well, appreciated for the latter some of the time at least.

I very briefly contemplated a famous T.S. Eliot quote as an epigraph for my 2017 book Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

But I cringed from the sheer overuse of these words, and the idea of giving yet another nod to Eliot, who doesn’t need it.

Kingswood library. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

Instead, I quoted Basho‘s opening lines of A Narrow Road to the Interior:

“The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. Adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

There are two worlds, of cringe and triumph, shame and pride. They do not mix well or get along; they are oil and water. They deny even knowing each other. They do not plan their meetings, and only spill into one another by accident. 

Sometimes, and suddenly, a narrow road appears between them. 

Kingswood. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

They can come into fractious or even violent contact and unwitting, unwilling collaboration. It might be brave to stand in the cringe, the vulnerability, but this also invites bullying, dismissal, judgment, scorn, and contempt. Standing there asks what kind of world we live in. I am wondering now, as I await responses to these words, written on a plane, traveling between worlds and carrying worlds within me.

The union of worlds – their reunion, for they share the same origin – ignites compassion. 

Kindness.

Love.

Compassion all along our river of being, from here where we float, to turbulent roots; to maelstroms of loss; to gyres of as-yet-unmetabolized distress; and downstream to the infinite waters of our longed-for peace.

And that is the journey, and the journey itself is home. The only one we really have. Our home with each other. Our home in our true selves.

I’ll see you soon.

The Gate of Friendship, Cranbrook. I remember another boy who had just gotten broken up with, running through this arch heartbroken, jumping, and stomping on the friendship seal, as if to shatter it. I hope I restored it a bit with this essay. Photo by Mike Moran.

Lion, Cranbrook Academy of Art. Photo by Ravi Chandra.

For further reading:

As Dennis Brown sang, “Love and hate – will never be friends – oh no – oh no – here I come with love and not hatred. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow I, all the days of my life.” We all do what we can – it takes a village.

Ravi Chandra is a psychiatrist, writer, compassion educator, and civilizational health shaman in San Francisco, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Here’s his linktree. For fourteen years, he was lucky to have his MOSF posts published by the Center for Asian American Media, and is now at work broadening and building a diverse creative community and coalition through reflecting on culture and psychology for East Wind eZine. Sign up for updates here, and see all the posts here. He writes from the metaphorical intersection of The Fillmore and Japantown in San Francisco, where Black and Asian communities have mingled since the end of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He literally works there, between two Indian restaurants, go figure. His debut documentary was named Best Film (Festival Director’s Award) at the 2021 Cannes Independent Film Festival. The Bandaged Place: From AIDS to COVID and Racial Justice is available on-demand, and with the discount code “Awake” you can get a 20% discount. His nonfiction debut, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, won the 2017 Nautilus Silver Award for Religion/Spirituality of Eastern Thought. You can find him on Psychology Today, MediumTwitterThreads, Facebook,  Instagram,  YouTube,  SoundCloud, or better yet, in the IRL.

And more photos, all by Ravi Chandra:

Business leader and author Charlene Li from my class, addressing alumni and reflecting on her address to graduating seniors at Kingswood. Jazz hands lol 🙂 Photo by Ravi Chandra.

And here’s my videopoem, “CitizenShip of Mixed Emotions” (2023). I wrote the poem on the last day of the 2023 Tsuru for Solidarity social justice retreat in Fort Worden, Washington, after our group had experienced an incident of racism in Seattle. We were present when an older white man, down on his luck and experiencing some kind of mental health crisis, took a sledgehammer to windows at the Wing Luke Museum, while we were in a meeting in the theater above. He shouted, “the Chinese ruined my life,” echoing the racist scapegoating coming from Donald Trump during the pandemic.