Anti-Asian racism, violence and virus blame during the pandemic: we need to talk about this
The pandemic is hurting Asian Americans. We can change that.
Recent shootings at several Atlanta beach resorts have brought violence against Asian Americans into the headlines. Again. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
Unwarranted suspicion, fear, and even hatred of Asians have been on the rise since news of the pandemic began reaching US shores.
Yuchen Ye, 28, visited her parents in China at the end of January 2020 for the Chinese New Year. She remembers being watched while wearing a mask on the train when she returned to New York City a month later.
“I was very scared,” she says. “Especially in March and April, people started to be really against Asians, especially Chinese. I tried to cover my face as much as possible when I went out, with sunglasses and a hat, because I was seeing more and more scary news about attacks on Asians.”
Ye was also worried about her work visa and felt pressured to work more hours at the hospitality PR agency where she worked to prove her worth.
COVID-19 has already placed an unrecognized burden on the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, even without acts of discrimination and violence.
Even among those who are not subjected to acts of violence, daily racism and discrimination create mental fatigue and exhaustion, compounding the stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent studies currently awaiting publication by Dr. Gloria Wong-Padoongpatt found an increase in micro-assaults against Asian people in the United States during COVID-19.
Studies conclude that experience consistent with everyday racism it may have led Asian Americans to believe in a sense of inferiority, leading to internalized racism and a low sense of self-worth, increasing the toll.
According to mental health america, the AAPI community is less likely to seek mental health services than any other racial group.
there is still a strong stigma in Asian cultures surrounding mental and emotional well-being.
This is especially concerning at a time when access to mental health services has been disrupted, according to a
Much of the country is dealing with isolation, grief, fear and loss of income.
Dr. Leela R. Magavi is a Johns Hopkins-trained psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, the largest outpatient mental health organization in California.
Magavi has evaluated several Asian American children and adolescents who said they experienced an increase in bullying at school in the past year, along with Asian American adults who face discrimination at work.
“Some children have shared things like ‘They told me to go back to my country, but this is my country,’ or ‘They said I ruined our country,’” says Magavi.
His adult patients have experienced colleagues making derogatory jokes about bat-eating Chinese.
“These people later expressed that they were joking, but words like this are significantly demoralizing,” she says.
More subtle microaggressions, like people avoiding eye contact and turning away when you walk by, can be just as painful to endure.
“The therapy doesn’t exist in China,” says Ye. “If you tell your parents you’re going to see a therapist, they might think you’re a psychopath.”
Ye had a hard time finding a bilingual therapist with whom she felt comfortable and could afford. Tried various virtual therapy apps and programs, including conversation space and a mental training program on wechat.
“I had no experience seeing a therapist,” says Ye. “But I did try to download some apps to try to help me manage my mood. I tried to do meditation in the morning, record my mood, and write about what motivates me at night.”
Ye says he is mentally better now, but it hasn’t been easy. Separating from social media and overwhelmingly negative news has been key to finding peace.
For people dealing with added stress and anxiety during this time and who don’t necessarily want to see a mental health professional, there are alternative self-care therapies that can help as well.
For example, within the realm of traditional Chinese medicine, gua sha, acupuncture, and cupping are noted for helping to de-stress.
Tysan Dutta, Spa Director at AAPI Ownership and Management yuan spa in Seattle, recommends autonomic sensory meridian response (ASMR) therapy to aid relaxation along with scalp massage and acupressure.
“We carry so much tension in our face and in our cranial muscles,” she says. “And we often focus on body massage without remembering that we all have much of our stress and tension above our shoulders.”
There are many ways non-AAPIs can help ease the burden on Asian Americans.
Share stories and posts among your social circles to raise awareness about Asian American racism and why it is not acceptable.
Call out anyone who makes hateful or insensitive jokes. Report hate incidents in Stop AAPI Hate, and step in to help anyone who might need it.
Don’t be a bystander. Sign up for free bystander intervention training to stop anti-Asian and xenophobic bullying. The kindness of strangers has the power to save lives.
Be sure to smile and greet AAPI people you see in your everyday life, especially the elderly and strangers. With minimal effort, you can brighten someone’s day and help heal the hurt of stares, evasion, and racial slurs that many endure in silence.
Support AAPI and anti-racism advocacy groups across the country like:
- hate is a virus
- AAPI Female Leader
- Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority
- Based in New York Asian Americans for Equality
- Asian Americans Promoting Justice in Washington D.C.
- Asian American Defense Fund in Georgia
Shop at independent Asian American-owned businesses in your community. You can find a list of companies owned by Asian Americans in the browser.
Racism against the AAPI community is killing us, from senseless murder to the insidious microaggressions we face on a daily basis.
It is very important that we talk more openly about mental health and normalize therapy. We all need someone to talk to sometimes, and there are resources available for the AAPI community.
Non-AAPIs can be better allies if they educate themselves, are kind and compassionate to the AAPIs they encounter in their daily lives, and support Asian American businesses and community development organizations.
Amber Gibson is a freelance journalist specializing in luxury travel, food, wine and wellness. His work appears in Condé Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Departures, Bon Appétit, and Travel + Leisure.