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The Real Asian Woman

Nov 23 2014
By: Cat Ye
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This piece was inspired by recently by revisiting my favorite YouTube comedian David So: In his v-log 113 (“Asian Women Are Submissive!”), he tackles the common Western stereotype that Asian women are…well…submissive. While this is a trope that has been talked to death and back again, he adds a layer to the conversation by contributing his experience as a(n Asian) male with Asian women. “My mother ran a business, made that guap, fed me kimchi, and still had time to whup my motherf*cking *ss, and if that’s not the definition of strength then I don’t know what is.” And this is why I love David So, ladies and gentlemen. Not only is he genuinely and effortlessly hilarious, he makes incredibly valid points in a way that makes an impression. One such observation is the following: “If you are going to base your perception of Asian women from a film, why not Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? Asian women kick ass!”

But we’re not here to talk about how great David So is. We’re here to talk about the real Asian woman–the one who fed and coddled you, who pushed and scolded you, who, throughout it all, never stopped giving you her love. So in a great comedian’s words…1 2 3, son, let’s get it, leggo!

The real Asian woman is a daughter, a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a best friend, a classmate, a girlfriend. Like every other woman, she holds grace and poise, is full to the brim with strength and resolve, is unrelenting and ambitious in her endeavors. Like David So, I can only share my personal experiences, and here goes–my own experiences with the women from my own family, my own inner circle.

My mother, from my first conscious memory, has been the strongest person I know. Leaving behind security in China for myriad possibilities in the States, she then proceeded to make the biggest sacrifice she could–her career for our (her children’s) cohesive family life. Over the years, she’s been nothing but supportive, and nothing short of incredibly inspiring.

My grandmother, in one word, is resilient. Coming to a foreign country at her age, speaking little of the language, with the rest of her kin back in China, was horribly daunting. Yet she faced it with the determination and stubbornness that runs in all the women in my family–and all the Asian women I’ve met in my life.

My aunt embodies the concept of inner drive. Despite all the setbacks in her life, she charges forward, her personality and passion blazing paths before her. She takes no one’s bullsh*t and knows exactly what she wants from life–and takes it.

My best friend has a heart of gold. She will be everyone’s pillar of support, selflessly giving so that she may be another’s strength. She has been there for me through thick and thin, without skipping a beat in her career and academic goals. I could not be prouder of or more grateful for her.

As for me? I’ve learned from the women in my life all the qualities above. I am happy to say that I am independent but not averse to collaboration, persistent and stubborn but willing to compromise, focused and determined but still multi-faceted as an individual. I am inspired daily by the strength and ambition of the Asian women in my life, from Juliet Shen to Lucy Liu, to my flatmate and even to everyday strangers encounters.

Reflect on the Asian women you know and consider again whether there is any truth to the stereotype set forth by Hollywood and Western netizen culture. It’s easy to see that, when compared to real life, the tropes simply hold no water.

pc: Peter Ou

 

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#BringBackSelfie

Nov 16 2014
By: Alice Tsui
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By now you must have seen via #BringBackSelfie on Twitter that ABC decided to officially cancel the show. #epicfail on ABC’s part just as Selfie was finally on the upswing, so let’s recap the latest episodes.

Episode 5: Even Hell Has Two Bars

Two bars of what you ask? Cell phone service. Henry and Eliza are invited to spend the weekend at the lavish estate of their boss, where there is absolutely no cell phone service to Eliza’s dismay. Henry has been preparing for this moment for years with horse riding lessons, but Eliza seems to ruin all his plans to talk about himself and being promoted when she keeps spontaneously suggesting more “fun” activities like tanning and celebrity watching, since there is no chance for her to update Instagram. Through Eliza’s efforts to chill out Henry, the two get into an argument… but that doesn’t last for long when Henry finds out that his boss promotes him since he was indeed able to let loose. At the end, Henry sees Eliza trying to find a signal while walking around in the woods and comes riding up in a horse. A bit of flirting ensues, only to result in the two pulling out their phones when the somehow at that moment, cell phone signal is revived.

Episode 6: Never Block Cookies

In an unrelated next episode, “Never Block Cookies” features Eliza and Charmonique teaming up to get Henry laid in order to relax. The two ladies try to help Henry out by trying to initiate a spark between him and the barista, and then setting up a mixer of single women for him. There was even a scene where Eliza tries to give Henry tips on dating and Henry pulls Eliza in by the waist. Up. Close. But, Henry claims to be looking for the real deal and in comparison to the previous episode, the ending is a little forgettable.

Perhaps the order of the two episodes should have been switched to leave the audience with a stronger, more impressionable ending to the night. Regardless, there’s no real save for the show now. With only one definite episode left to air, we are left wondering why ABC pulled the plug so fast on a show that captured genuine moments from our everyday lives – both awkward and sweet.

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Come to the Culture Show: A Made-Up Guide of How to Share and Preserve Our Traditions (If only it were that easy!)

Nov 14 2014
By: Miranda Canilang
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This Saturday is my college, Bryn Mawr’s, Asian American Culture Show, also known as Asian American Students’ Association’s (AASA) biggest event of the year. After months of preparation and lost hours of sleep, I’m taking a step back and reflecting on the overall process.

At a small liberal arts college, there’s no film school to shoot a professional looking teaser. There’s no arts school to design the posters and graphics. As a result, those English and Physics majors have to step up to the plate. I’ve successfully mastered the art of iMovie and Apple Pages (I’m too cheap for Final Cut Pro and Photoshop). Though a trailer and posters are nice to have (and of course, a Facebook page and event), our tangible presence via flyers around campus matters just as much as our online social media presence. Maybe the one definite benefit of a small school is a small campus to spread flyers around.

East coast colleges are also at a slight disadvantage due to location. East coast, small, higher education institutions are not diverse enough to have students to represent every type of Asian affinity group. It’s a wide known fact that California is the heart of Asian America and the entertainment industry. This year, my AASA are flying in two spoken word artists from California. Those plane tickets add up. That’s not to say there aren’t any new emerging Asian American artists on the East Coast, you just might have to search harder.

The great thing about student events is that there will always be school funding for your event. (As if putting together a single event is a representative for the college’s so-called “rich” diversity). In real life, though, who supports the arts? Even more importantly, who supports a minority’s art? If we don’t continue passing down our history and culture, no one will.

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An Alliance For All Asian Americans

Nov 13 2014
By: Shan Lin
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I attend a predominantly white institution (PWI). Within the last decade, The Princeton Review ranked Dickinson College the most preppy. I remember my first impression of the school during re-visit my senior year of high school. In the first week of classes, I attended the student activities fair. I passed by a sakura blossom- themed table and noticed that the members did not appear Asian. Across the aisle was the “Asian American Alliance.” A handful of upperclassmen wore t-shirts saying “S.W.A.G. Something We Asians Got” across the back. During the 2012 academic year, the Asian American Alliance (AAA) had been Student Senate recognized for one semester. The neat fragment of its history is that there was an organic coming together of these students. They come from New York City, Texas, Virginia,and Los Angeles. Many of them were half-Asians (or HAPA’s) and some were born offshore (but raised in The States). My freshman year enthused me with an undergraduate social life with Asian American classmates among the predominantly white peers. Those who were not interested in the Asian American Alliance were fraternity and sorority members. “Passing as white” or not identifying with an Asian American identity was a topic of conversation among the club members.

With senior members graduating, the organization remained “top-heavy” in its percentage of upperclassmen. Underclassmen recruiting was grim and I was among the first to join. We held weekly discussions led by students and faculty. In less than ten weeks, a rotation among the active members that presented a topic was completed. Our model for weekly conversation was running dry. Membership, leadership, and participation was dwindling. The semesters before I began classes were the best. Before formal school recognition, APIA students were interested in fundraising, partying, and lounging in public locations. Those beginning moments were as close to a sports team or a sorority as I have personally experienced. I collected the stories of my elder classmates and clung to those reiterations of a golden age for Asian American advocacy. What lies ahead for AAA’s future is unclear. I believe that participation in organizations such as ECAASU is critical to furthering AAA’s, and other colleges’ APIA student groups, missions. With their annual conferences at an east coast university, ECAASU can provide an extensive network to help connect numerous advocacy groups. The result could be a stronger Asian American presence among colleges that can spread westward, going further than Philadelphia.

 

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On Catcalls

Nov 08 2014
By: Cat Ye
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In light of the recent, long-overdue buzz over street harassment of women, I thought I would add to the discourse a narrative of the particular type of harassment that I, and many women like me, have had to suffer through daily. I am an Asian woman, early 20s, who walks paths all over the city: from East Harlem to the Lower East Side, from the West Village to Brooklyn, and most often, in the heart of the NYU Manhattan campus. But regardless of where I am or what time it is, the one experience I’ve gotten used to in life is the catcall. And not just any catcall–I am referring to the racially charged catcall that seems to haunt my steps.

 

For some reason, my ethnicity has yet again seemed to take the priority in my outward identity. “Hey China doll, why don’t you come on over and show me a happy ending?” 5pm. In the middle of winter. All he could see was my face, but that was apparently enough to warrant the comment in broad daylight, surrounded by two of his buddies and a few random strangers walking by on the sidewalk. Unafraid, in broad daylight, because he knew that his comparative status of a man with a few friends, versus mine, of a lone Asian woman, made his abuse beyond reproach–as long as I cared about my safety. All I wanted was to get from point A to point B. What I got instead was discomfort and raw nerves for the rest of my commute.

 

It is at this point that I’d like to address the naysayers and haters–because I know you’re already raising your hackles. “But not all men are like that! Surely you must have been wearing something scandalous…and if you’re walking around at x time, you’re practically asking for it. How can you expect not to be catcalled? Take it for what it is–a compliment.”

 

To all of this, I say hell to the no. There is nothing flattering about being catcalled. As brilliantly summarized in a cartoon by Robot Hugs, catcalling and harassment is not about appreciation or desire: it is all about power and control. It is an act of aggression, a hostile vehicle used to project dominance and reinforce a feeling of superiority. There is nothing anyone can do to deserve this kind of treatment at any time. Women have the rights to our bodies as much as do men, and we deserve the freedom of expression so easily given to our male counterparts. If women have learned to avoid the darkness for fear of rape and unwanted advances, surely it must be common knowledge that this harassment is both a common and unacceptable problem, that no woman is an exception to this crime. How could we expect not to be catcalled? This should be a no-brainer. Because we’re human beings. Because we deserve respect. Because men should know better.

 

For women of color, there is one more layer added to this harassment. All catcalling is horrible and is unjustifiable in every way, and the addition of racism to this harassment is downright unbearable. Not only am I a victim because I am a woman, I am made into a victim again as an Asian. The color of my skin is no excuse to further disrespect me.

 

Despite their immense relevance to life and their too-belated trending, #yesallwomen came and went, and so will the buzz over this video. It’s up to us to make sure this conversation doesn’t end, that we keep making the important points, that our experiences are no longer belittled, that men and women alike own up and take responsibility and do their part to make street harassment a thing of the past.

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Zoning: A Quieter Kind of Story

Nov 04 2014
By: Celeste Chen
Categories: Blog
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To be perfectly honest, before this past week, zoning had never really been an issue that I seriously considered. It wasn’t health policy, immigration reform, or any of the other “hot” policy topics that I held near and dear to my heart.

However, a confluence of factors drove me to explore the nuts and bolts of zoning.

First, I came across this story, profiling 75-year old Gum Gee Lee’s story of how she, her husband, and her disabled daughter were evicted from their San Francisco Chinatown apartment so that it could be remodeled and sold as a luxury unit. This process is commonly referred to as gentrification.

Her words stuck with me: Upon stepping into the newly renovated, $759, 000 apartment unit for which she once paid $778 per month, she said,

If I won the lottery, I would buy this place –even if it cost me more…Because even when I dream, I still think about this place.”

Also, I was in the middle of doing research on federal emergency response in New York City’s Chinatown in the wake of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, and I repeatedly stumbled across Chinatown residents in New York pushing for a “Special Zoning District.” What role did zoning play in Gum Gee Lee’s story? Why was it a focal point in every policy recommendation about NYC’s Chinatown that I came across?

According to the New York City Department of Planning, zoning is a “key tool for carrying out planning policy.” To be more specific, designating a neighborhood or area as a specific “zone” carries with it a set of rules for what developers, landlords, and other commercial/housing bigwigs can do.

Useful terms before moving on: (you can find a more in-depth examination here)

  • - A zone can be commercial, residential, industrial, or mixed use, and zones differ mainly in terms of the building height and density of “dwelling units” or living spaces.
  • - Usually zones are named in a [letter][number] style, e.g. R6; the letter indicates the type of development (Residential, Commercial, Manufacturing) and the numbers reflect the density that is allowed, with higher numbers representing a higher accepted density.
  • - Upzoning means that the height and density of new buildings can be increased, which promotes new development. This means that private developers, hotels, and other commercial entities can come into a neighborhood and build higher, build more, and build for the wealthy.
  • - Downzoning, on the other hand, means that the amount of allowable building space is capped at a lower number, thus preventing the construction of luxury high-rises and maintaining a neighborhood’s local businesses and resident demographics.

Why is this so important? Because zoning regulations essentially control how much a neighborhood can be developed, a neighborhood’s zone can be a critical factor in enabling or preventing gentrification, thus making zoning an important concern for residents such as those in major Chinatowns across the United States.

Zoning determines whether low-income apartments can be transformed into luxury high-rises or whether large commercial brands can swoop in and replace smaller mom-and-pop stores. Zoning, essentially, can lead to either the displacement or preservation of lower income communities.

In 2008, East Village –a community where the income bracket is generally higher than those found in the Lower East Side and Chinatown –was downzoned: Building heights and unit densities were capped, affordable housing was incentivized, and hotels and dorms no longer received zoning bonuses. Chinatown and the Lower East Side were markedly excluded from this rezoning.

Because developers now faced more restrictions in East Village in terms of how they could build and develop, Chinatown and the Lower East Side were now more vulnerable: Without the downzoned privileges that East Village enjoyed, these communities –where a great number of low-income, immigrants worked –became more attractive targets for luxury development. Unlike the East Village, neither Chinatown nor the Lower East Side zoned in a manner that allowed them to incentivize renovating pre-existing buildings; instead, demolition became the developers’ preferred choice.  Consequently, as more of the Lower East Side and Chinatown became developed for commercial interests, the neighborhood physically changed, affordable housing dwindled, and residents were pushed out.

Some important numbers:

  • 1. According to the 2010 Census, over the past ten years, New York City’s Chinatown “lost 17% of its Chinese residents, or some 6000 Chinese New Yorkers.” This drain has been exacerbated in part by forced evictions just like that of Gum Gee Lee’s. On a broader timesale, this drain also stands as the culminating result of the economic losses sustained by many Chinatown small businesses, garment factories, and employees in the wake of September 11th.
  • 2. Between 2002 and 2009, an estimated 9000 rent-regulated areas in Chinatown were replaced and their residents displaced.
  • 3. Moreover, in a 2010 report and survey, more than 83% of Chinatown residents have seen their rent increase between 2007 and 2010.

A downward spiral of gentrification is thus set in place by zoning and its implications. Zoning, in its essence, shapes neighborhoods and cities. This is why residents in New York City’s Chinatown have been pushing for a Special-Zoning District designation.

What would such a designation do? It would ideally include “anti-demolition, anti-harassment and anti-eviction provisions as well as limits on the kinds of businesses that can open in the neighborhood.” Special-Zoning would protect small business owners. It would also install provisions that allow for affordable housing that would provide for lower income, immigrant families.

Otherwise, how many other Gum Gee Lees will become evicted because their landlords want to turn a profit? How else can residents stop the changing tide of gentrification? How many more small businesses will lose to conglomerates that swallow up the once-distinct faces of neighborhoods?

And the larger questions: What will become of our Chinatowns? What will happen to their communities? Are these spaces destined to become relics of the past? And if this can happen to such a distinct part of America’s urban landscape, what other communities, what other parts of our cities, are at risk?

For Further Reading:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/special-district-zoning-is-urged-for-chinatown/

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140514/lower-east-side/low-income-housing-advocates-push-for-more-units-chinatown-les

Reports

http://caaav.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Chinatown_Report_FINAL.pdf

http://www.chinatownworkinggroup.org/Two-Bridges_Framework%20to%20Preserve%20Chinatown%20LES.pdf

http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/ccpd/repository/files/rezoning-proposal-10_25_10final-draft.pdf

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Stuck Status of Selfie

Nov 03 2014
By: Alice Tsui
Categories: Blog
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ABC’s “Selfie” seems to be stuck as the season continues. Here’s the low down of the last two episodes:

Episode 3: A Little Yelp From My Friends

In the third episode, Eliza and Henry faced opposite problems. Eliza tried befriending office coworker Joan by stalking and memorizing her Yelp reviews to create a common ground for conversation. Henry, on the other hand, tries to help his “bestie,” office coworker Larry, even though he ultimately can’t stand Larry. Here we see a key similarity in Eliza and Henry: the lack of actual friends in their individual lives. This realization helps in the development of their own relationship at the end of the episode when they decide to eat lunch together – the quintessential confirmation of friendship. Seems like Henry and Eliza are stuck with each other… Since they only have each other! For now.

Episode 4: Nugget of Wisdom

Unlike the last episode where Eliza and Henry spent time apart to develop their relationship together, the fourth episode brings the two together in babysitting receptionist Charmonique’s son. Somehow, the babysitting gig, which starts off with Eliza but then brings Henry in for backup, becomes a dance party. Henry’s entrance is marked by none other than the first KPOP song introduced in the show – Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar.” Henry then asks,

“You think cause I’m Korean, I automatically like KPOP?”

A few seconds later we see him then show off his “KPOP moves” with Eliza! This moment sheds light on the sheer upbeat catchiness of many popular Korean Pop songs making their way into the American music industry and now onto prime time television! On another note, Facebook pictures from this very PG dance party are a reflection of just how much effort we are willing to put into our recorded photos in order to show how fun our lives are to our social media “frenemies.”

Aside from the one Asian reference, it is nice to know that racial stereotypes are not the center of this show. However, the awkwardness of the social media obsession continues and while it means the episodes progress slowly in whichever direction they are going and sometimes feel stuck, perhaps it all continues to be a commentary on how awkward our strange our own lives have become with hangouts with friends checking Facebook, Yelping all business prior to dining and learning about people via what they like online. Are WE stuck?

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5 Reasons Asian Girls Will Not Love You

Oct 25 2014
By: Cat Ye
Categories: Blog
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Editor’s Note: While this post was originally written as a response to a specific piece, the sentiment expressed is general and the original piece no longer available.

The world has never been so open; affordable travel and the internet have done a phenomenal job of erasing distance between borders and allowing fetishizing men to really spread their creed.  For those unfamiliar, fetishization is defined as the excessive or irrational devotion to an activity or object. In this context, an Asian fetish, or ‘yellow fever’, as coined by the writer David Henry Hwang, is a slang term used to describe the intense interest in or attraction for the people and culture of Asian descent by those of non-Asian descent, originating from the stereotyping of Asians in Western society.

Supposedly we lovely ‘exotic’ ladies have just twiddled our thumbs the past few decades, sitting around looking pretty and waiting for the macho Western man to scoop us up and love us. As an Asian woman, a member of the aforementioned ‘exotic’ demographic, I feel it is about to time to set the record straight and strongly insist that just because you find it necessary to fetishize and ‘love’ us, we by no means feel any inclination to love you. Time to dispel the White Savior myth–here are 5 reasons why Asian girls will not love fetishizing men.

  1. We are not your living anime/manga characters. Furthermore, we do not exist to be your soothing massage girl, nor your exotic little housewife. Unlike those of 2D characters in fictional worlds, our range of emotions is as large and complex as any other human being’s, and to have our existence condensed into cute little packets of Asian stress reliever is insulting and demeaning to say the least
  2. Asian women don’t exist to cater to your fetish. Much as we are not dragon ladies, painted geishas, or China dolls, we also don’t exist to fit into any other stereotype you can think of. Contrasting us with the typical Western woman is a moot point–any cultural differences have nothing to do with your dating preferences. It might be nice to think we walk on clouds and breathe out incense, but that fantasy is simply untrue.
  3. Fetishizing is not a compliment. Comments like ‘I love your culture’ and ‘I love Asian women’ are not flattering–they’re downright insulting. ‘Asian’ is not a trait you can look for in a partner. It is a race and can be broken down into various ethnicities, none of which exists for your ‘exploration’ and ‘appreciation.’
  4. Why yes, we are polite and human. More emphasis on the ‘human’ part of that, but I’m surprised that’s news to anyone. And if you are just starting to recognize that we are human beings, capable and worthy of respect, then you don’t deserve our attention.
  5. We do in fact take care of our family and the ones we love. And we owe you nothing. Being an adult does not excuse you from caring for those who raised you, and our love for our family does not serve as an indication to you that we are ‘suited’ for you to acquire and to have your children. Contrary to his belief that APIA women are subservient, we are not brooding mares or housewives. Asian women took 18 of the 50 spots on Forbe’s ’50 Most Powerful Women in Business’ list in 2011, and according to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans on a whole are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. While some APIA cultures may indeed place more importance on filial piety, career ambitions and motivations have similar priority.

In conclusion, fetishizing is not attractive. While it has certainly seen a rise among netizens, most notably among ‘the good guys’ (who are closely related to ‘the fedora guys,’)who all fall under the umbrella category of ‘misguided,’ there is no function of this trend in the betterment of society.

So, (fetishizing) guys …cut it out. We don’t love you, and we won’t love you, until you learn to respect other human beings and treat them as such.

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ECAASU Welcomes: Our New Bloggers!

Oct 21 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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Hi everyone! I hope you are all ready to learn and discuss more about APIA issues. I certainly am! And that’s why I’m excited to announce that ECAASU has brought on three fascinating and diverse bloggers who will contribute their unique opinions on a weekly or biweekly basis. Please join me in welcoming:

Celeste Chen: Celeste is our new Policy Writer! Celeste’s background and previous works make her the perfect candidate to talk about policy for ECAASU, especially in terms of health. Interested in how? Check out Celeste’s columns, which will be every Tuesday (although her first will be tomorrow).

Shan Lin: Shan is our new General Contributor! Shan is interested in exploring APIA relationships and in the portrayal of APIA people, especially men, in the media. He has lots of insight and thoughts that he draws from his own personal experiences as well as others. Want to know more? Check out Shan’s columns, which will be every other Thursday.

Catherine Ye: Cat is our new Intersectionality Writer! Cat has plenty of thoughts that she’s expressed in many different venues, and we’re thrilled to feature them on ECAASU’s blog! We’re especially looking forward to her thoughts on stereotypes and social injustice. Are you as well? Check out Cat’s columns, which will be every other Saturday.

For more detailed information on these wonderful writers and how to contact them, please visit our “About the Blog” page.

Stay tuned, because our first contributor post will be up tomorrow!

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Starting that Conversation on AAPIs & Mental Health

Oct 21 2014
By: Celeste Chen
Categories: Blog
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Nearly everyone can agree that mental health is both a much-discussed contemporary issue and a tricky, often nebulous term. When approached from an academic angle, mental health and mental illness can often times be too easily reduced to new research, newer pharmaceuticals, and the newest policies.

Even when I first pitched the idea behind this blog post, I wrote, “With my first post, I want to examine the existing mental/physical health issues in the AAPI community, and then focus on current policies and resources that are available/aimed at improving the mental health of AAPI college students.”

But what does that even mean?

I want it to mean that we place our stories alongside our statistics and our policies. I want to have a frank discussion about what terms and concepts like “access” and “language barrier” and “cultural differences” represent from an AAPI standpoint. I want to know what young AAPI’s in high school and college face when they seek out mental health services. And in turn, I want to know what kinds of resources that we have.

The thing is, it’s incredibly easy to write out all of that. Paying lip service is often easier than taking action.

But what do we do–what can we do–when Asian-American women have a higher lifetime rate of suicidal thoughts than that of the general US population? What do we do when Asian Americans between 18-34 years of age think about suicide, intend to commit suicide, and attempt suicide at higher rates than any other age group within the AAPI community?

What do we do when the suicide rate of Chinese-American women is ten times higher than that of white women? What do we do when the number of deaths by suicide among NHPI increased 170% between 2005 and 2010? What do we do when 1 out of 11 AAPI adults have seriously though about committing suicide?

This past May, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the White House Office of Public Engagement hosted a briefing on mental health issues in the AAPI community. Topics included suicide prevention, barriers that prevent AAPI communities from accessing mental health services, and cultural considerations.

Slowly but surely, we’ve made progress with research and policy.  WHIAAPI has an E3! Ambassadors program aimed at supporting and empowering AAPI students from across the nation in an effort to address mental health disparities in our community. There are toolkits available online that are backed by the White House. We now have nonprofit organizations like the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) that provide online resources and launch campaigns aimed at educating AAPI youth about mental illness. Even national organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness has information on mental illness and recovery in a selection of Asian languages.

The growing attention on the mental health of AAPI students and the larger AAPI community in general is a positive sign of good things to come, and I am excited to see how the current policies, initiatives, and programs play out in the long term. But we haven’t reached our happy ending yet.

In other words, what can still be improved?

The burden of starting a conversation and changing the way that mental health is addressed in the AAPI community cannot solely be left for us to shoulder. An online toolkit and an informational page on depression or schizophrenia may need to overcome more than a language barrier.

How else how can I start a conversation about mental health with my parents when I may have never learned the word for “mental health” in Chinese? How do I voice what is very often considered a silent taboo? And how do I even begin and then sustain a conversation about mental health when I am told to disregard those who may just be “stuck in their old ways”? When Cornell implements a “Let’s Talk” program where counselors visit student spaces and offer consultations that won’t be recorded in official medical records, what kind of message are we sending about how mental health is addressed in the AAPI family space? And when other universities adopt this model, how many of those counselors themselves identify as AAPI?

Furthermore, when policymakers focus on aiding AAPI students or youth struggling to make decisions regarding their mental health, they cannot forget that many of these AAPI youth do not stand alone. There also need to be a focus on reaching out to AAPI families; there needs to be strategy that seeks to educate our older AAPI brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles, and that education needs to be culturally competent. There is more than a mere language barrier that must be broken.

This is not meant to ridicule the work of mental health professionals in higher education. I simply mean to ask, at the end of the day, how do we really go about exploring mental health in the AAPI community?

We need a better support system that both guides AAPI youth when they navigate mental health services and reaches out to other members of the AAPI community as well.

 

 

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