As an Asian woman in the mental health field, it is infuriating seeing how authorities in Atlanta have been handling this. The way they excuse the shooter by attributing things to his sex addiction, is not only inaccurate and hurting the Asian communities, but it also further stigmatizes mental illnesses.
The misogyny or fetishization of Asian women is a systemic issue rooted in toxic masculinity and White Supremacy. It is gendered racism that Asian men are viewed as effeminate or asexual, while Asian women are seen as sexually desirable, exotic and passive.
Racism is racism. Hate crime is hate crime. Name it as it is. The language we use matters.
Last month, I did a virtual webinar/presentation on “What we can learn from the Asian American stories: systemic issues, mental health challenges and implications”. We were attacked by hackers.
Derogatory anti-Asian language was used and the screen shared PowerPoint was demaged, demonstrating the exact anti-Asian violence I was speaking against.
For the participants who attended the webinar, Asians or non-Asian, it was a traumatic experience, witnessing a violent attack.
Like me, many may personally experience violence, hear stories from someone they know dearly, or see these attacks on the news. These experiences can be traumatic.
Asian communities and communities of color are experiencing vicarious trauma and collective grief, hurting and questioning why we’re not accepted by the society.
The escalation of violence and hate crimes across the US is noticeable, especially since Trump’s “Chinavirus” and “Kung Flu” racist and hateful language. The UN reported 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans in 3 months and there is a 1,900% rise in NYC alone.
The issue of safety isn’t something that’s only theoretical. A lot of victims of these hate crimes and attacks were older adults or women, who may not have the ability to fight back physically. Asian Americans are under attacked, especially the most vulnerable of an already marginalized population.
There is fear. There is anger. There is frustration. There is grief. There is trauma. There is pain. All we want is to be heard. All we want is to be accepted and to belong.
The “perpetual foreigner” stereotype viewed Asian Americans as fundamentally foreign individuals who will never fully assimilate into American society. They constantly experienced microaggressions such as being asked where they are from or told that they speak English surprisingly well.
All these are found to be psychologically harmful and can lead to depression symptoms and lower self-esteem. Being a minority in a White society, Asian Americans often experience racial imposter syndrome, where the internal sense of self doesn’t match with other’s perception of their identity (e.g. being called a “banana”- yellow on the outside, white on the inside), giving rise to self-doubt.
In addition to that, when society view Asian Americans as submissive, quite and reserve, many of us internalize that oppression and feel that we are not important.
Not only does internalized oppression prevent group members to connect with one another, it also makes oppressed group members discriminate against one another, which is exactly what the Model Minority Myth was designed to do.
The Model Minority Myth is the stereotype that Asians are smart, polite, successful, law-abiding, hard-working, socio-economically thriving model citizens and are shining examples of overcoming racism and discrimination to live the American dream.
The term was actually used by politicians during the civil rights movement as a convenient tool to downplay the role of racism and absolved White systems from taking real accountability for the inequities they’ve created.
The portrayal of Asian Americans as successful permits the general public, government officials, and the judiciary to ignore or marginalize the contemporary needs of Asian Americans.
In fact, 99.4% of the Asian American high school students had experience the stereotype at least once. When it comes to workplace discrimination, Asian Americans reported highest among any racial/ethnic group.
The Bamboo ceiling, stereotyped Asian Americans as high in competence but low in warmth and dominance, perpetuating that Asians are ideal as “subordinate employees”.
The problem of Model Minority Myth is that it maintains the racial hierarchy created by White supremacy, pits different minority groups against each other, denounces the existence of White privilege, and downplays racism and discrimination experienced by POC in the US.
Silence around anti-Asian violence is prevalent. The complex racial trauma and the internalized oppression make it even harder to share our stories or stand up for ourselves.
However, White supremacy often sustains itself through narrative scarcity. One of the most important things we can do as an individual and as a community is to understand our own stories and identities. Racial identity is not a simple issue and we as individuals are complex.
It’s okay to not have all the answers at once. It’s okay to feel hurt or confused. It’s okay to not wanting to be put in a box. These things are hard to talk about. There is so much trauma and history. But if we don’t try to understand the buried history and our own stories, if we don’t try to have conversations, if we don’t allow ourselves be seen or heard, nothing will change.
The hurt and pain we experienced from racism will continue to affect our children and the generations after them. To own our stories, which takes so much vulnerability, it also gives us the power to write our own narratives.
Moreover, it is not weak, but rather, a form of strength and courage to reach out for help. We can never fight this on our own. We need one another.
Mental Health and Organizational Resources for AAPI
APISAA Therapist Directory https://asianmhc.org/apisaa
Asian Canadian Therapist Directory https://asianmhc.org/actd
National Suicide Prevention Line https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
(1-800-273-TALK) Asian Languages: 1-877-990-8585
Crisis Text Line https://www.crisistextline.org/text-us/
Text CONNECT to 741741
Asian Law Caucus/Asian American Advancing Justice https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/
Stop AAPI Hate https://stopaapihate.org/
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (Atlanta Branch) https://www.napawf.org/
Asian Mental Health Professionals of Georgia https://www.asianmentalhealthga.com/
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Atlanta https://www.facebook.com/napawfatlanta/
Georgia Crisis and Access Line 800-715-4225
Peer2Peer Warm Line 888-945-1414