Ways To Combat, Cope With Increase In Discrimination Asian Americans
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / May 20, 2020
Evidence is mounting that Asian Americans are experiencing an increase in harassment and assaults in the United States, particularly since March when the coronavirus pandemic really began to affect Americans.
Tomorrow a free virtual community conversation will be offered by Jewish Family Services to explore how this is affecting the mental health of members of the Asian American Community and how to deal with it.
Speaker 1: 00:01 Evidence is mounting that Asian Americans are experiencing an increase in harassment and assaults in the United States, particularly since March when the Corona virus pandemic really began to affect Americans. Tomorrow a free virtual community conversation will be offered by Jewish family services to explore how this is affecting the mental health of members of the Asian American community and how to deal with it. One of those who will be leading that conversation is Amanda Lee, who is division director of adult mental health at the union of pan Asian communities. Amanda, welcome. Thank you so much for having me, Alison. So now reporting out of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco university reveals that Asian Americans have reported over 1700 incidents of coronavirus discrimination since mid March across the nation. What do you think has kind of making this kind of behavior a resurgence of this kind of behavior? I'm out of the country,
Speaker 2: 00:52 so I think people are scared. It's, it's an unprecedented event for all of us, for many of us in our generation and, and there's a lot of fear, there's a lot of panic, there's a lot at stake. And, uh, when, when people are pushed into a corner so to speak, they're, they're looking for someone to put the blame on, to scapegoat. And I believe that that's essentially what we're seeing here today. Um, with the characterization of the virus, for instance, who might, some of our top leaders as as related to China, the Chinese virus, as you may have heard said, and I believe that's coloring people's perceptions to very deep degree.
Speaker 1: 01:31 Is there any evidence that these incidents are happening in some places more than others across the nation?
Speaker 2: 01:36 Yes. So, um, if I can reference a press release recently from the Asian Pacific policy and planning council just last week, um, they're seeing 30 some percent percent of the incidents take place in public venues, including streets, parks and public transit. And if I might add the stop AAPI hate recording center, as you mentioned, it has already received over 1700 incident reports. I happen to be one of those reports or the individuals that made a record as I have myself experienced being verbally harassed on public transit simply because I was wearing a mask. I'm trying to protect myself as well as my fellow community members.
Speaker 1: 02:19 Can you just describe what happens to you?
Speaker 2: 02:21 Um, so the gentlemen, uh, loudly announced that, Oh, I guess, you know, I have to sit next to the mast people. And you know, sometimes you know, when you're faced with a situation that could potentially escalate, you know, you have, you know, hopefully practiced maybe different ways to, to intervene for yourself in a safe way. And for myself in that moment, I just chose to use humor and I replied to the gentleman that yes, I'm wearing a mask, I'm Batman. I'm trying to diffuse the situation a little bit, but I can only imagine if I hadn't done that or if I hadn't gotten off quite soon after that, that other people hearing him instigate and maybe having similar feelings of the fear and panic I'd mentioned earlier would have joined in and perhaps it would have been a very bad situation or outcome.
Speaker 1: 03:08 I understand that you've talked to some of your colleagues about incidents that they've also experienced, so, so how does all this affect you emotionally?
Speaker 2: 03:16 Yeah. I'm most recently checking in with a colleague who is the program manager of one of you pack with a union, a Penn in Asian communities program. She runs East wind clubhouse, which is a recovery model based clubhouse. And she's lived next to her neighbor for over 20 years now. And they've had a very pleasant relationship. But ever since, um, you know, things started to happen in regards to the pandemic and rise of racism. Her neighbor began to dump garbage into her backyard. And, and as she was telling a story, she was visibly shaken and tearful because she just doesn't understand the reason for the, the sudden onslaught of, of hatred. And, and she's also afraid, um, you know, speaking with her husband whether or not in do we report this to the police, do we do anything? Do we talk to them? The fear of retaliation is very real as well.
Speaker 1: 04:11 And the thing is that, you know, historically Asian Americans have experienced some pretty awful things during world war II, for example, in the camps. You know, talk a bit about what Asian Americans were already dealing with before the pandemic.
Speaker 2: 04:25 Yes, absolutely. And in fact, you know, that makes me recall that at the beginning of the reporting for the pandemic and just the first couple of weeks they started to compare, uh, the scale of this event for us as Americans to world war II and to Pearl Harbor, the tax on Pearl Harbor. And personally I couldn't help but cringe to have that sort of correlation drawn and help it wonder, you know, with the characterization of the virus, uh, having strong ties to China and to Chinese, um, you know, would we be the next ones to be carted off into turn and counts, uh, just based on who we are and, and how we look or the perception of how we look, the impact on mental health. If I may talk about that. Uh, in regards to COBIT 19, the reality, Alison, is that for Asian Americans, this pandemic is just compounding issues or challenges that have already existed with or without a pandemic.
Speaker 2: 05:24 You know, everything from the stigma that Asian Americans face for perhaps having a mental health diagnosis, uh, whether or not, uh, within their culture that's something that is understood or they have support from family members and barriers to seeking treatment due to that or barriers to seeking treatment due to language barriers or maybe not understanding how to navigate a very complex healthcare system. And that is if one even has a health insurance to begin with. So lack of is also something that has always been an impact for either mental or physical health for our community,
Speaker 1: 06:04 right? Yes, exactly. So, so you're talking about the barriers to exploring this or what happens when you ignore these? They're not always small but, but repeated experiences,
Speaker 2: 06:16 you know, when we try to ignore or push down perhaps or numb, you know, what our experiences, if we don't have an outlet to speak out about what we go through emotionally, you know, there are repercussions to our mental health and wellbeing. You know, a very simple example is, uh, disruptions to our sleep, disruptions to our mood, which from there, you know, stems out to disruptions in other areas of our life in terms of functioning. You know, being able to go to school and being able to work, being able to be, uh, participating in family life, having relationships with our family members. So there are significant repercussions for, um, having unresolved or untreated mental health concerns. And that's why the access is so important. Alison,
Speaker 1: 07:07 so during this community conversation tomorrow, you and the other panelists will be offering some tips for how to, how to cope for people experiencing these kinds of feelings during this time. Can you tell us about what some of your advice would be?
Speaker 2: 07:20 Yeah, absolutely. And um, I was having a discussion actually in preparation of the panel with my colleague who will also be on the panel, Michelle Lee, she's the division director for U packs children and adolescent mental health about how important it is right now, uh, for folks perhaps not to. Um, I mean, using mindfulness and deep breathing and other self relaxation of self care techniques is very important. You know, we don't, we, we definitely don't want to deny that or, or, or not put that out there. But at the same time, I think given the current crisis that we're facing and the attack on our community, what might be even a more powerful or healing if you will, is to really come together to the best of our ability. And I know that the County supervisors are looking at, uh, bringing back a human relations commission, which I think is a brilliant idea, you know, and it mirrors the purpose of the panel tomorrow, which is to have an honest conversation about what's going on. So I think we need to come together and we need allyship from other individuals in the community who may not necessarily identify as Asian American. You know, there's power in bystander intervention. Say if there is an incident of hate going on, you know, being willing to speak up for your fellow Asian American and to recognize that, you know, we're all a part of this American fabric. Right. And to not let that be forgotten.
Speaker 1: 08:53 Well, Amanda, thank you so much for some of your experience with us and some of your positive solutions for how to tackle it. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate the opportunity. I've been speaking with Amanda Lee, who is division director of adult mental health at the union of pan Asian communities, and tomorrow afternoon from three to 4:00 PM there'll be a free virtual community conversation online to provide further support on these issues. It's put on by Jewish family services and you can find the link on our website at KPBS or on the Jewish family services website.