While anti-Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) racism has existed in this country for a long time, there has been a rise of misplaced fear, anger, xenophobia, and violence since the start of the pandemic. This came to a tragic head earlier this week, on March 16th, 2021 when eight people, including six Asian women, were murdered in a series of racially motivated attacks at three Asian-owned day spas in Atlanta, Georgia.
Why is this happening?
This is only the latest in a long string of anti-Asian hate incidents. Asian Americans have been taking the brunt of America’s pent up anger and violence in response to the pandemic–from the dog-whistled label of the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu”, to the steady rise in reports of verbal and physical attacks. According to the reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate, there have been nearly 3,800 instances of attacks against Asian Americans in the last year, most of them against Asian American women. A recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University revealed that in 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans rose 150% in 16 cities in the United States.
“Asian deaths will not bring the pandemic to a stop nor will it fix it. To those who remain silent about the racism that is happening towards the Asian community: your silence is deadly.” -Esther Ng
Silence is deadly. Racism needs to be called out in any and every form. While this obviously means harsh condemnation of the recent violence we’ve seen, it also means calling out more insidious kinds of anti-AAPI racism, such as the Model Minority myth that pits Asian and Black Americans against each other, or the fetishization of the “exoticism” of Asian culture and beauty. Another important factor that feeds into anti-AAPI sentiment is the myth of the ‘perpetual foreigner’, when non-White Americans are perceived as foreign or non-American because they belong to a minority group. While this is mostly manifests as a passive microaggression (e.g. questions such as “where are you really from?”), in its most aggressive form it takes the shape of violence towards the perceived ‘other’. Combined, these factors lay the groundwork for anti-AAPI sentiment and racially based violence.
What does this mean?
Following this incident, Asian Americans were put in a position where they needed to show up to work and school, to take care of their families, and somehow proceed with their lives after experiencing trauma on a national scale. In the mental health community, this meant that Asian therapists somehow found the bandwidth to hold space for their clients, while also holding space for themselves.
Therapy is political. It must be. Therapy without social justice keeps those who have privilege complicit in their privilege and perpetuates harm towards anyone else. At Valera, we are committed to removing barriers of discrimination and making high quality mental health care accessible for everyone. It is not enough to be passively non-racist, we are devoted to being actively anti-racist in everything we do.
Where do we go from here?
For the Asian community, there is no right or wrong way to be feeling, processing, or grieving right now. Here are some resources to access for care and community support:
- Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA)
- Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
- Asian Mental Health Collective
- APIDA Therapist Directory
- Asian Mental Health Project
If you are a non-Asian person, it is vital to be a vocal ally at this time. Here are some places to learn more from, donate to, and volunteer with who are actively combating anti-AAPI racism: