Violence Against Asian Americans: How Do We Support the Children?
The murders of eight people at several spas in the Atlanta area, most of them Asian American and women, mark only the most awful, recent contribution to a year-long spike in anti-Asian American violence in the US. The STOP AAPI Hate received some 3,000 reports of assaults against Asian Americans between March and December 2020 alone, many of them targeting women and seniors.
Watch this conversation about the resulting toll on Asian American people and communities and about how communities are pushing back. How are parents, family members, teachers and other caregivers supporting children at a time when physical safety is all but impossible to guarantee? How can the rest of us meaningfully support our Asian American family members, friends and neighbors?
Our fabulous guests are Dr. Anatasia Kim, professor and cognitive-behavioral therapist to children and families at the Wright Institute, and Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council.
EmbraceRace: Thanks you so much for joining us. We're glad to be here and excited about our guests. Let's introduce them.
Dr. Anatasia Kim is an Associate Professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California and a cognitive-behavioral therapist whose primary areas of interest are child/adolescent/family development and minority mental health. Dr. Kim is the author of It's Time to Talk (and Listen): How to Have Constructive Conversations About Race, Class, Sexuality, Ability, & Gender in a Polarized World, which came out in 2019. Anatasia, it's great to have you here.
Dr. Anatasia Kim: Thank you. Thank you so much, Andrew and Melissa.
EmbraceRace: And also delighted to have back Manjusha Kulkarni (Manju), who is the Executive Director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), which is the coalition of more than 40 community-based organizations that serve and represent the 1.5 million Asian Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County. In 2014, Manju received the White House Champions of Change Award for her dedication to improving healthcare access for Asian American communities. But Manju we know that the thing you hold closest to your heart is that you were a guest with Talking Race and Kids back in May 2020, by which point it was already clear that the spike in violence against Asian, Asian American people in communities have become clear already. So in one sense, sorry to have you back to talk about more of the same, but delighted that you could both make it, especially on short notice.
Let's go straight to some questions. The mass shooting in Atlanta was last Tuesday. We of course had on Monday, another mass shooting. So two high profile mass shootings in six days apart. We're of course talking about the one in Atlanta where six Asian American women were among eight people killed at three locations in Atlanta. You're both very much invested in this work.
Can you just give us a sense of what it's been like this last week and a day? What's it been like for you?
Dr. Anatasia Kim: Well, thank you, Andrew and Melissa. Hello, everyone. Nice to be with all of you this evening, though I wish it was under different circumstances. For me, both personally and professionally last week was, it was very rough against the backdrop of a year that has already been so challenging for so many of us on so many different levels, and not just the COVID pandemic, but as well the ongoing racialized violence against Black and Brown communities, and especially the relentless public lynchings of Black folks. Against all of this, it's been very challenging, dysregulating, anxiety inducing, and a really deeply painful time.
So as I've been trying to sit with and process my own personal connection to the murders in Georgia, in my professional capacity, the demand and the need from my students, from patients, from community members at large have been honestly overwhelming. There's been lots of anxiety, fear, trauma, depression, righteous anger, rage. They have all been very difficult to hold and contain for so many of us, both in and outside of Asian and AAPI community.
And I know because we are speaking to parents and caregivers. I'm also the parent of two teens. And as a child psychologist and a parent it's been very difficult and very sobering. Not much sleep, to be honest. Yeah. So that's where I am.
EmbraceRace: Manju we're going to come to you. Both of you are people who, professionally and you mentioned being a mom Anatasia, care for others and are looked to for support and guidance and so on as we're doing tonight. One thing I hope we can touch on a bit later is what you do for yourselves, how you're able to take care of yourselves in this time bearing as much as you do.
Manju, what's it been like for you these last eight days?
Manjusha Kulkarni: Thank you so much, Andrew and Melissa for having me on, again. It was a real pleasure to be with your audience last May and welcomed this opportunity for such an important conversation, because I too am a parent of a 17 year old and a 21 year old, a new adult. So having to sort of navigate those waters from that vantage point. I want to first just express my deepest sympathies, not only for the families of the victims, but also the AAPI community and the entire Atlanta community. I noticed that several of the folks that are on now are from Georgia and so how painful it is to experience this. And of course the gun violence that you mentioned, which was wrought upon Colorado once again. So on that human level, it's just really devastating to see this loss. We actually were given some free advertisement space in the LA Times on Sunday and really what was so I think important for us to say there and what I want to share with your audience is, "We are them, and they are us."
Really that these women are so much like the folks on the webinar today. They're parents, they're people taking care of their families. And so in that sort of personal human level, to know that there's really not much that separates us from them and how close to home this comes in terms of those feelings of anxiety, trepidation, et cetera. On a professional level, let me say that it was so heartbreaking for a couple reasons. Last Friday was actually our one year anniversary for Stop AAPI Hate. We launched it really not knowing what would be happening. We saw an emerging trend, but I can tell you, I never expected something so devastating as Atlanta and was not at all prepared for it.
Just to share with you a couple of quick statistics, 68% of the people who report to Stop AAPI Hate are women. We've gotten about 4,000 incident reports from 11 months and sadly, many more in the recent days. So women have borne the brunt of this hate against our communities. So it was from that angle too I looked at it. And one last thing I wanted to say is, many of you probably like me, watched the press conference or snippets of it on Wednesday morning and it was troubling too to see. It was just really dismissed that the perpetrator said it's not a racist incident and so therefore it sounds like we're supposed to take his word for it, the sort of sexual violence involved by the perpetrator. That he just was having a bad day. What an awful statement to make!
When most of us have a bad day, what do we teach our kids? When you have a bad day, meditate, take some time for yourself, maybe get some ice cream. If you're a parent, you can do like Daniel Dae Kim said in our House hearing on Thursday, "Have a beer." But you don't shoot up people and you don't kill people. And so it was sort of from that angle too, it's like, what are the police saying about this even before the investigation? So I just wanted to add that note too, because we all need to be very vigilant in what we expect from our government and from law enforcement.
68% of the people who report to Stop AAPI Hate are women. We've gotten about 4,000 incident reports from 11 months and sadly, many more in the recent days. So women have borne the brunt of this hate against our communities.
EmbraceRace: Thank you, Manju. Yeah, that was startling and not only what was
said or at the press at the lectern, but also how it was just immediately
repeated everywhere. And that's been really interesting to see just how quickly
it changes. We got an email from a great librarian (we love librarians!) who
said, "I'm really excited about this conversation that you're going to
have. Can you not refer to these Atlanta establishments as massage parlors? Can
you say spas?" And so, again, and we were like, "Oh, thank you for saying
that." Just the way we're kind of repeating and learning as we go. The
bright side is that there's so much analysis now of that initial, just everyone
just taking exactly what was said and reporting it.
And just from the last point Manju, the point about just the White male officer saying that this young White man had a "bad day." You immediately recalled for me the Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who recently said he didn't feel threatened at all on January 6th at Capitol Hill incursion. However, if it had been Black Lives Matter protesters, he might've felt very different indeed. So, yeah, the perception of threat apparently depends everything on the race, gender, et cetera.
You've talked about the personal effects, Anatasia, and what you're seeing in your practice. And Asian and Asian Americans are responding very differently to these incidents into the year and especially this most recent act of violence.
After so much difficulty, the Atlanta event has to have a lot of responses. What are you seeing broadly in terms of responses across those populations?
Dr. Anatasia Kim: I appreciate your emphasis on broadly since it's certainly the case that Asian and AAPI, Asian American Pacific Islanders, are not monolithic. And the assumption and stereotype of being Asian is often portrayed through a very singular or limited lens. So what's the Asian experience, what's the Black experience, et cetera? Which, as I'm sure many of you know already, is fundamentally not only inaccurate, but it's really dangerous. And this is what we have been witnessing from the Atlanta murders, which are absolutely symptomatic of racialized violence and racialized misogyny.
And we have seen it throughout the pandemic with the rise of hate crimes against Asians and especially against our vulnerable elders, but we've also seen it in this very much politically weaponizing rhetoric, such as COVID being the China virus or Kung flu or to the dangerous and racist ideology such as model minority and all of it as a means to really minimize and silence and erase the diverse, rich Asian experiences in order to reinforce and maintain systemic racism and oppression.
So from my perspective and observation, the broad trend in response, really not only within Asian and AAPI communities, but across the board, especially with BIPOC communities, has been one of trauma and retraumatization. And I'm sure this is not surprising to anyone given the historic and long standing treatment of Asians, especially as perpetual foreigners, people who can and have been used, abused, silenced, fetishized, disposed, weaponized, people who can and have been assaulted, been lynched and murdered for simply being Asian. And this is a very familiar and unfortunately dangerous rhetoric and mechanism of how systemic oppression and racism is maintained. So in my observation, some Asian community members whose families been here for generations, some as long as 160 plus years, the retraumatization has been unrelenting and it's been cumulative.
And for those of us whose families have been here more recently, the Atlanta murders are just yet another evidence of Asian erasure, denigration, dehumanization in this country. And I've personally heard many of my own family members, community members saying maybe it's time to move. Maybe it's time to go or go back to Korea, China, Philippines, et cetera. So as a community, the response of trauma, of sadness, anger, and really deep pain is what I have been observing professionally and personally. And even if an Asian person says, "No, I'm really totally good. This doesn't affect me at all." Maybe that's true. Certainly it's not my place to challenge the truth of anyone's experience. And as a psychologist, I would also wonder whether that indifferent response is yet another very predictable symptom to systemic oppression, the need sometimes for us to remove or dissociate and numb ourselves from pain and the reality in order to survive to say, "I'm good. It doesn't affect me." Or maybe, "It can't affect me." So trauma, sadness, anger, and maybe even sometimes denial and dissociation has been my observation.
EmbraceRace: March 16th, if I'm remembering right was the day that Donald Trump, the former president first tweeted about the "Chinese virus." And we know that anti-Asian American hashtags went up dramatically after he did that. So that's arguably a starting point. It's been a full year for the spike in violence, harassment, abuse. It's one thing for it to be an isolated incident or a week or a month. For it to be 12 months plus is a different thing, especially when punctuated by what happened last week.
I'm wondering if you're seeing any change in your own closer circles in that response, a year later with no end in sight? Anything you want to speak to there, Manju?
Manjusha Kulkarni: Yes. If I could just start off by sharing a little bit of our data in terms of those broader trends you asked about, which is of the 3,800 [reported incidents] we know that they have taken place across 50 States and the District of Columbia, rural as well as urban. Really no part of the country is immune to what's going on now. Thankfully the vast majority, 90% or more are hate incidents and not hate crimes. Of course, that doesn't mean they are not traumatic and to be taken seriously, but I say thankfully because some of the crimes are really indeed ones that involve significant bodily harm and in fact, death, as we saw in Atlanta. Of the 90%, we know 60% plus involved verbal harassment, name calling. Just elderly grandparents walking down the street with their grandchild and accosted by someone who yelled racial epithets at them.
We know that 10% involve discrimination either in the workplace housing or grocery stores, restaurants, big box retail, where people are just really being refused service by cashiers. They're having comments made, they're being shunned by others whether it be at a café or coffee shop. So these are things I think we need to all worry about and the reason I share that data is because it's going to take all of us and not simply a law enforcement response. It is going to take schools working on this, it is going to take city councils and efforts to set up hotlines or other things to provide help and support to those individuals who experienced the discrimination. And what I want to share also is the point that Anatasia made around the model minority myth and invisibility. So in that hearing I mentioned, this was the House Judiciary Committee that met on Thursday and it was actually planned before Atlanta and I had an opportunity to testify.
It is astounding to me that the last time they had such a hearing on any issue involving the Asian American community, any issue was 1987. That is when I graduated from high school. I can tell you a lot has happened since 1987. And the fact that never has an issue been raised that impacts our communities, despite us having 24 million individuals across our country. And just to end too, with the model minority myth, which I know a number of your viewers have pointed to in the chat it has really wreaked havoc on our communities in multiple ways. One, to pit us against African-American communities, Latinx communities, to create this sense that we don't have problems or issues or challenges. And finally, one point people don't realize is the professor who coined it from University of California at Berkeley said what he appreciated about Asian Americans is that they were quiet and they didn't demand their civil rights the way that African-Americans did.
And so obviously that's a very troubling framework, especially in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. But I think that shows us that this is an opportunity now for us to not be silent if we ever were and to make sure we voice our concerns very loudly.
EmbraceRace: So there's a spike in reports, and of course your organization started Stop AAPI Hate to track them, but it does make me wonder about all of the racialized violence that happened before that. Have people been more outspoken? You have to sort of start a Stop AAPI to get the reports, right?
Manjusha Kulkarni: That's such an important point that you make Melissa. And let me say two things about that before I get to the question of President Trump. We know from the Pew Research Center that did a study last summer, three out of 10 Asian Americans have experienced racist jokes or racial slurs in 2020. And keep in mind, this is from the summer, so we don't even know about a similar result after July or August. Three out of 10. That equates to about eight million people. Eight million of us have experienced something in 2020. Because COVID really wasn't on our shores prior to February or March, looking at other data, there were very few incidents against Asian Americans that were reported to other sites that were in existence. But I want to take your question about, essentially the Trump effect and our data actually shows what the Trump effect is, which is that when we looked at this in the fall, out of 2,500 incidents at the time, over 700 use the same words.
So when people tell you that words don't matter, obviously you shouldn't believe them, but we have the evidence that shows that people actually employ those same words against our community members when attacking them physically, when denying them service in grocery stores, even kids using those terms and similar ones: "Go back to your country." And in some cases even, I will tell you that a number of the ones received by our center actually weaponized President Trump himself saying, "Trump is going to F with you. Trump is going to send you back to your country." And then again, using terms like, "Wuhan virus, China virus and Kong flu."
Dr. Anatasia Kim: I think statistics are really important and they're very sobering, and just like any other sort of traumatic events, people often are not reporting, just like women don't report when they're assaulted. And going back to the myth of model minority coined by William Peterson, not only was it a paper that he wrote, but it was intentionally weaponized as a political weapon against Black liberation and empowerment. And I think that has become the organizing principles that have guided race relations in this country. And that is the thing that we don't teach ourselves and our children, and as such silence abound and our ability to understand each other are absolutely compromised and then subjugated communities turn on each other. Why? Because we pick on other people that we know have less political power and capital. That's how white supremacists indoctrination is able to survive and thrive.
And so the model minority myth is a really important part of American history and American race history that we absolutely have to interrogate, educate ourselves about, and also be able to bequeath that knowledge and give opportunities for our kids to re-imagine a different kind of racial relationship in this country.
The model minority myth is a really important part of American history and American race history that we absolutely have to interrogate, educate ourselves about, and also be able to bequeath that knowledge and give opportunities for our kids to re-imagine a different kind of racial relationship in this country.
Dr. Anatasia Kim
EmbraceRace: In talking about this last year, we're talking about as it were a local spike in violence. We're certainly not saying that this is a new phenomenon. You both made reference to this, but you think about backlash against Asian American after Vietnam War. You think about the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which to my knowledge is the first time that a racial and sort of national group was excluded and forbidden from coming to the US shores. You think about the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. This is certainly not a new phenomenon, but the past year is a local spike that's worth talking about.
I'm seeing some folks saying, "I, as an adult, am so distressed right now, how do I muster the energy, the wherewithal to support my child when I can barely get through the day myself? We got one message leading up to this webinar from an Asian American woman who said, "I don't leave my house. I'm so afraid. I literally do not leave my house."
There are a lot of Asians and Asian American children who are in distress, are angry, or may or may not be ok. How does someone carry and nurture an Asian or Asian American child who they're caregiving for through this time? Furthermore, how can the adults help themselves so they can support the children in their lives?
Dr. Anatasia Kim: Yeah, let me do a point of clarification. I know that we're challenged by time, but I want to make sure that I clarify the earlier point of denial. Sometimes, we have righteous experiences psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and I feel like systemic racism is a wounding at a spiritual level. It's a wounding of our soul. Can't put a simple sort of band-aid. So when I say things like [that people are in] denial and numbing, I think we all have to, as a professional and people resist the pull to pathologize the person experiencing this symptom of the sickness of white supremacy. So I just want to make that point of clarification, because these are the small nuances that I think then gets weaponized, and then we as folks of color internalize it and say, "What is wrong with me? I can't get it together. I can't get up in the morning. I'm in denial, I'm deluded."
And these are absolutely ways in the field of psychiatry and in politics have been weaponized to keep folks of color downtrodden. So I'm in the same boat. I am a child psychologist. I've been doing this work for over two decades. I, myself am very disorganized. My area of expertise is actually in anxiety and I'm anxious. I'm irritable. I'm all of these things. And so I think first and foremost, really, to be able to anchor and tether their caregiver, the adult who is responsible for that child is first and foremost. The old adage, secure your oxygen mask first. It's very challenging to calm someone down and to give them some sense of agency and grounding if we ourselves are really dysregulated. It's common sense, but to be able to do that is very sobering. So I think really first and foremost, channeling a sense of compassion for ourselves, channeling rest, I think rest for our BIPOC folks and for Asian folks, particularly now is an absolute necessary and a radical form of political resistance.
There's going to be this pull to like, do more because you're like, what the heck? This is awful. I'm worried about my parents taking a walk. I'm worried about myself. I'm worried about my kids. And I think that the pull to want to sort of do and act immediately, but I think first and foremost, and to the extent that you need that, to be able to rest and to sort of center yourself. I think there's a lot happening with kids. I mean, kids across the board are already super anxious. They're irritable, they're anxious, they're lonely, they're isolated. This is across the board across all races. For Asian kids and teens, for BIPOC kids and teens, for girls and young women, for poor kids and teens as well as other marginalized groups are without a doubt more disproportionally impacted. Why?
Because when you're bullied and attacked and murdered, not because of anything heinous that you have done, but simply because of who you are, your gender, your sexuality, your race, that's only not only dehumanizing, it's very, very scary. And this is true for adults and kids alike.
And anxiety has abound in the past year, the uncertain nature of the pandemic. "When is it going to end? Am I going to get impacted? What happens if I get it? What happens if I don't get vaccinated?" So it's just adding more anxiety that feels really untenable and unsustainable on top of everything else. So it's very, very sobering. And I think really what parents and caregivers and educators we can do is check in with ourselves and with our kids on a regular basis. "How you're doing? What have you heard? What have you read? What are you thinking?" Notice any significant changes in terms of signs or disruptions in mood, behavior, eating, sleeping, activity. I say this, even as I realize my own sleeping, eating and everything has been sort of disrupted. So on top of that already. Talk about it. I want to really implore White parents and caregivers because White parents and caregivers who often really have had less experience in talking about race with their kids. Be direct, be clear, name the violence against Asians and BIPOC folks.
"How are you feeling about this? I'm feeling upset, scared, confused, helpless. I'm not sure sort of what to do." It's okay to not have answers, but silence can be very scary and it can also be very problematic. Why? Because kids, especially little kids when you're left to create a narrative, when little kids are trying to make sense of what is going on, on their own and if they are already anxious or anxiously disposed, the narratives that they end up developing is often one that only emboldens anxiety and fear. So parents and adults cannot be silent and silence also we know is often complicity in terms of systemic racism.
The third thing that we could do is normalize and reassure, feeling anxious and anger is really scary, right? I treat a lot of phobias. So being scared of needles, being scared of dogs, it's very, very disorganizing and sort of scary to be able to normalize and reassure reactions, feelings, and experiences. And I think a consistent message with Asian hate crimes in particular is that we don't belong and feeling like one doesn't belong is extremely dysregulating and threatening. So we have to communicate to our kids if they're feeling dysregulated, angry, and they're vacillating between very strong and disorganizing feelings. It's okay to be angry, to be sad, to be mad. This is especially hard for parents and caregivers because I think we want our kids to be okay and when they're not okay, it makes us nervous and anxious. But the mechanism of how anxiety works is that when we're really quick to try to fix something in an anxious way without checking ourselves, it actually only emboldens and makes our kids more nervous and anxious. So I see a lot of parents and caregivers doing the very thing that we shouldn't do.
And then finally, to be able to model healthy coping and regulating because actions do absolutely speak louder than words. And this is very difficult and sobering because it's hard to regulate. So I think for me, especially, I'm talking to BIPOC folks out there in particular, like rest, take care of yourself, pass the baton and tell your White colleagues, White neighbors, White friends, White parents, and White family members, "You do this for a minute. I'm going to go literally lay down or metaphorically lay down." And I think that that has to be a form of political resistance that we have to use generously for ourselves so that we can sustain the work.
Because when you're bullied and attacked and murdered, not because of anything heinous that you have done, but simply because of who you are, your gender, your sexuality, your race, that's only not only dehumanizing, it's very, very scary... I want to really implore White parents and caregivers because White parents and caregivers who often really have had less experience in talking about race with their kids. Be direct, be clear, name the violence against Asians and BIPOC folks.
Dr. Anatasia Kim
Dr. Anatasia Kim: I just want to say final point if your kid is really in such a situation that requires professional help, please seek that. Sadly a lot of us are really stretched thin, but really get the professional help that your kids and you might need and deserve."
EmbraceRace: That's so beautiful. In preparing for this, I came across a reference to the idea that Asian Americans among all this sort of major racial, ethnic groups in the country were least likely to seek mental health support when it was needed.
Manjusha Kulkarni: Yes.
EmbraceRace: Manju, you mentioned the White, obviously White people can be in family, in community with Asian Americans. We have a lot of questions from people who do not identify as Asian American and who may not have intimates who are close, but they have friends, neighbors, or students who are Asian or Asian American.
What can White people do to support Asian or Asian Americans in their community?
Manjusha Kulkarni: So let me start with a couple of things. One is, folks I want to be clear that while the vast majority of individuals who report to Stop AAPI Hate are themselves folks who've experienced it and are Asian American and Pacific Islanders, we actually have a number of individuals who are White, African-American and Latinx who witnessed something and they were really upset by what they witnessed and so for them, taking action was to report it. And we're able, because of our analysis, to pull that out and to see that it's a few percent of those individuals. And so if you do see something, say something, whether it's reporting to us, also providing support to individuals who are experiencing it, speaking perhaps to a manager, if you see a cashier or employee that's discriminating. So I think that's one step that everyone can take.
Number two is seeking to better understand. So the resources that you have through EmbraceRace are just phenomenal. I can't tell you how many times I've shared your website with friends and colleagues, other parents, educators. And I have friends who've also had been on the webinar themselves to share some of their insights. So I know I'm in good company with some fabulous people. So I think, for example, I will share that an episode that got a lot of attention this weekend was the John Oliver show, Last Week Tonight. And they did such a phenomenal job talking about Atlanta, talking about the model minority myth, et cetera. And I can say that part of that is because they reached out to us and I had a conversation with the producer on Friday and asking really good questions, "What is going on? How do we understand this phenomenon better?" So that they're not just taking the word of the officers or taking the word of the perpetrator or things like that.
Number three I would say, listen to the youth, what are they saying? I want to direct folks to a youth report we issued that actually came from young people. We had a a hundred kid youth internship program last summer and a couple dozen of those young people actually wrote this report called They Blame Me Because I'm Asian. And so if you look at that, these high school youth had so much to say. They interviewed, I believe it was 900 of their friends and classmates and they put it together. They issued recommendations as to what to do. They're telling the adults, "This is what we think you should do in our schools. This is the kind of mental health help that we need, et cetera." Obviously talking to your children. Anatasia covered that and again, the resources that you all provide.
The last thing I would just say is, being an ally in the various ways that you can. There was actually a really great article in the LA Times last week, which was exactly that question. How can I be a better ally? And I thought that it was so comprehensive in all the different facets and ways that people can show their solidarity. So I just encourage folks to read that because it couldn't be more timely.
EmbraceRace: Can either of you talk about the intersectional oppression faced by AAPI women and seniors? Why are those groups over targeted in the AAPI community?
Manjusha Kulkarni: What we know from those reports that have come in, there's no doubt that individuals who are seen as vulnerable are being targeted and that can be physically vulnerable, folks who may not respond in kind if there's a physical attack. Something like that. We also know from the Me Too movement and the report on street harassment that 81% of women actually have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetimes. And so we know that from that data, women do experience this, this is a problem that's essentially ubiquitous in our society. And so now what we see is that racialized component sort of layered on top of. So the issues around intersectionality are very clear. And I think that, unfortunately it makes us more vulnerable to what's happening.
Dr. Anatasia Kim: I teach graduate students, doctoral students, and work with a lot of professionals and we like to get super heady and make things really complicated because they are, to be sure intersectionality, multiplicity, nuances. And yet I think it's also very simple because I also work with a lot of lay communities and parents and kids. And it's like, it's really simple. And I think it's to what Manju was talking about, when you are feeling some kind of a way, and that needs to be externalized and you're projecting that out. You pick on other people that you know to be more vulnerable.
So I think as parents and educators and caregivers, if you can really anchor yourself in this work on a few simple things, which is to unpack the indoctrination of white supremacy, power and privilege and go back and forth sort of between those two things. And if you think about it, you need not need to be an expert or have a PhD or sort of whatever. If you are in a playground, in your kid's kindergarten and a kid is being sort of picked on, and that kid is so mad, righteously mad, because they're sort of being picked on, guess who that kid goes to pick on, not the teacher's pet I tell you. Because even that kid, at age five and six, knows that the teacher's pet has a particular power and privilege and access and proximity to power and privilege or access and proximity to Whiteness. Yeah? And so really, if you think about it, our seniors are vulnerable. Women are vulnerable.
The fetishization of Asian women is as long as history, global sort of history. It's not just in the United States and in the Western world. It's in all places all over the world. We pick on the poor, we pick on people who we don't give political power and capital sort of too. So I want to really encourage and implore people. I'm finding my own students and other people, they just can't get enough. And we are in the technology of information overload and people are so overloaded with so many great material and there are still 24 hours in a day. So you can really go back and forth between education, relentless sort of education, especially if you're White, but at the same time tether yourself and ground yourself in really simple things. And in some ways it's beautifully simplistically simple. It's about equity. It's about sharing stuff. It's about when someone falls down as being mistreated, you go and help because that's the right thing to do. So I think that those are the ways in which I think we can help have dialogue with our kids too, and education in ways that really make sense.
EmbraceRace: A lot of people are saying they're struggling to find information to provide and have these conversations with their children. "We've been continuing to have conversations about these atrocities, but at ages eight and five, is there a balance to strike?"
People are talking about not simply fear of upsetting their children, but children who are already traumatized and upset. The feeling of wanting to relieve the upsettedness, to give some ease and comfort, but we know that there really is a limit on the guarantees, the promises we can make. So what is the balance?
How do you engage the child who seems so on edge that the parents or caregivers are afraid of pushing further?
Dr. Anatasia Kim: So two words. Attunement, which is what works for one child, even what works for my daughter might not work for my son. So I have to be in proximity, in relationship, to know how I can really uniquely meet the needs of my daughter that might be so different than how I meet the needs of my son. So attunement. So having regular, what I said earlier before, having regular check-ins.
And the second thing is that one of the things that is really common, whether you're talking about parents, educators, or caregivers or kids, the overarching emotional umbrella of all of this is fear. So fear that becomes politically weaponized, fear that gets embedded into our consciousness, fear that actually paralyzes us as parents and fear that also immobilizes and frustrates and aggravates our kids. So what we do with fear and anxiety, the impulse in terms of our makeup of our human brain, is to go away from it. So I do this a lot in my work, in my clinical work. So it's like anxiety and fear tells us, "Avoid. Step away." Now, the gold standard for treating any types of anxiety is to lean into it. It seems very paradoxical.
So what I often find parents doing, and parents who are afraid because their kids, including parents whose kids are suicidal. So I wanted to have a really extreme example. Parents won't even say the word. I'm like, "Say it. Name it." Because they're already feeling it and what you're doing by not saying it, and just walking on tippy toes, you are absolutely emboldening it. and seeing it and through your actions saying, "You're right. This is really scary. And your emotions are scary. My fear of you not being okay is really scary." So there's so much unspoken tension that actually emboldens. So my advice is twofold. Get back into it again and again, plant seeds. You might not get resolution after one sync with your kid, you absolutely won't. If you do, you should be wary of that. You're like, "What happened? That was too easy." But plant seeds and keep going back and going back. We know this to be true in any relationship. With my partner of 25 years, I don't know, it took about 25 years for us to figure it out, going in and going back again. That's the investment.
We're so resistant to, and we're so averse to long-term, but systemic racism will require a relentless, audacious, long-term lifetime commitment for all of us. And our kids are no different. So keep checking in and if they give you nothing, like my kids do sort of as teenagers. "Nothing, it's fine." "What, you're going to talk to other parents?" So just like, "You're mean to me." You're going to get all kinds of pushback, but invest and keep going back and keep going back.
Get back into it again and again, plant seeds. You might not get resolution after one sync with your kid, you absolutely won't. If you do, you should be wary of that. You're like, "What happened? That was too easy."... systemic racism will require a relentless, audacious, long-term lifetime commitment for all of us. And our kids are no different.
Dr. Anatasia Kim
EmbraceRace: Thank you. Trust me. Our kids are like, "Race again?"
But you keep going. It does seem like a great opportunity when you were talking
about the simplicity of it in talking to kids, of talking about privilege,
power, and white supremacy, that those really are things that you can talk
about at a very simple level, simple to more complicated. And there's a real
opportunity in this horrible moment for talking about with kids, like for
example, our kids who we've had this conversation a bunch about the ways in
which they're privileged and the ways in which they're not. So when they have
power in a situation when they don't, as BIPOC kids. I think that makes kids
feel, not only do they feel solidarity, but they also feel like they have a
better sense of where they do have privilege and power and how to use it. You
know what I mean?
So there's that opportunity sort of in this moment for especially kids who are not Asian and Asian American to sort of feel how they have privilege and what that means for saying, "Stop," when they see something, for example, right?
Dr. Anatasia Kim: And I mean, I just want to say this one final thing. I think the other thing that I see very, very often is that we're all good parents wanting the best for our kids as parents and educators and caregivers, so we try to learn everything and then give best practices in terms of our parenting and care. And I want you to just pause if you're like me, type A neurotic, over-prepare, to sort of pause and know absolutely. It is a guarantee that we're going to make mistakes and I think that's a beautiful opportunity to work in conjunction in partnership with our kids.
Kids, if you haven't already experienced it, love it when grownups mess up. So audaciously lean in and be like, "I'm going to mess up." And then when you do like, "Mommy messed up, I really messed up." And they're like, "I know. And you also messed up five minutes ago and I'm sure you messed up yesterday." And that actually gives kids a sense of permission to actually make mistakes on their own. And I think that's also the antidote to the cancel culture where it's like quick to cancel people, we're quick, quick, quick to cancel people with that opportunities to really learn and have a lot of grace in the process of learning and growing.
EmbraceRace: There are at least a handful of non-Asian Americans who come to Stop AAPI Hate and report something they've witnessed something. And it may true in many cases that they've witnessed something that the victims of the action have not themselves reported?
Someone asks, "How do you get your Asian American family members to take action and not "keep their heads down" or "look the other way?"
Manjusha Kulkarni: Well, that's a great question and thank you to the audience member who asked it. I think it is worth sort of unpacking a little bit. There are a lot of reasons for people not reporting, right? Let's look at what those reasons are. It could be a lack of language access, challenges with technology. There are a number of folks in our communities who may not feel that comfortable with English and don't feel that they can go forward and report to law enforcement or other governmental authorities. So I think those are a couple of the key features.
I think also trust, right? How have government institutions shown that they can be trusted by Asian American communities? Even in Atlanta, for example, it's a question of whether law enforcement took with them law enforcement officers who speak Korean, speak Mandarin or Cantonese. Because I will tell you some of what has been reported in the Korean media has not been reported here in the United States, which is that the perpetrator, in fact did say, "I want to kill Asians," or, "I want to kill Asian women."
And so why was that not included in the press conference? One wonders if it had to do with the language access issues. And then I think what you're sharing too, Andrew, is important, which is in many of our cultures, there is this sort of sentiment that the nail that sticks out will get hammered, right? So not drawing attention to yourself you know, just doing sort of what is needed for your work, for your family. I don't want to overstate it because I don't think that's everything that's going on in this moment, but that can have an impact. And I think too, how will it be received even within your family? I've seen too many times within my extended family when I've experienced discrimination and I've talked about it, including, for example, with Airbnb and getting a house to rent and I mentioned it to an uncle and he said, "Oh, are you sure?"
And luckily, because I'm a former Civil Rights attorney, I said, "Yeah, I'm damn sure because I know what that looks like. I know what discrimination looks like and all of the components of it." But sometimes our extended family may be because they're in denial or because it's too traumatic for them, may look for alternative explanations and that's not actually helpful or supportive in this moment. We really need to listen, as Anatasia said, listen to those who are saying that they've experienced and just create space. I will tell you a number of reporters that I've spoken to and even colleagues have said that someone in their family just let them know after Atlanta that an incident had happened a year ago, nine months ago. So there is a quite a bit of trauma that's preventing people from speaking.
Now, on the other hand, what I want to point to is two important pieces here. We've done a survey with the American Psychologist Association of our respondents, and we found that one of the top reasons actually for reporting to Stop AAPI Hate, which is as you pointed out, Melissa, the nation's leading aggregator of this data, is because of civic duty. And to think about that and how heartening it is that people feel that sense of civic duty. They know that this is something that's happening right now, and they want it to be understood and they want it to be solved. And toward that end, what I want to just really highlight for folks is this can be a galvanizing moment for our community. We've seen people speak up in the last few weeks in a way that they haven't before, or perhaps they haven't gotten the attention when they've spoken up. I've seen, for example, you know, Margaret Cho, the famous actress say that, look, her family gave her an Anglicized name because they were really worried that nobody would say it and that she would get bullied for having a Korean name.
I've heard on Twitter from adoptees who have White parents and really listing out ways in which they've been discriminated and never shared it with their parents. We've heard a lot from a number of women's advocates talking about that hyper-sexualization of Asian women, really across now two centuries. So I think this is an opportunity for all of us to name what's going on, to claim our experiences in a really bold way, and to begin to demand an investment from our lawmakers into what we need for our communities moving forward. We need policies, we need change and we need healing for each and every one of us.
EmbraceRace: We've gotten a few questions about adults saying, "I never told my parents or whomever about this experience I had, this racialized experience." And in saying that in this moment, we have several questions about from people asking still whether they should talk to their kids about this incident, to their Asian, Asian American kids about this incident.
One person question's was, "Should I talk to them about Atlanta, if I've never spoken to them about racism before?" I mean, your point about kids experiencing things and not telling their parents. A lot of times parents might believe that their kids aren't experiencing it because they're not talking about it. So I wonder how you would respond to that parent?
Dr. Anatasia Kim: Well, I would say this, that unless your child never sees anyone else besides you as a caregiver, doesn't ever leave the house, doesn't ever watch TV or play with other kids, then it is a great, great likelihood and probability that they have heard something. And maybe if not a particular incident, something else that you might be shocked and surprised to sort of not know.
So I think a very important question as parents and caregivers is to ask ourselves, "I want to bring it up. What are the reasons for me not to bring it up? And are some of those reasons to serve me? Because I don't know, maybe my kid is going to say something and I don't know how to respond. Or is it because I feel like, nope, I know my kid, this is not going to be developmentally appropriate for them."
And I would submit to you in our world that we are connected more than ever before, even if your kid is homeschooled and unless you don't give them absolutely any access to social media and internet, they are exposed. This is not unlike sex education. We're like, "Well, no, because I told my kid and they never, and we never." I'm like, "Let me tell you, they know so much more than you ever wanted to and often they are being educated by people who've never had sex or only have a sort of understanding." So to have the conversation and to plant seeds, it doesn't have to be beginning, middle, and end all in one setting. Plant seeds and keep coming back to water those intentions. See what sprouts up and see what doesn't. So lean into doing it and making sure that you're not not doing it to serve your own fears and anxiety.
EmbraceRace: Yeah. The conversation's happening without you.
Manjusha Kulkarni: Yeah. If I could add to that too, there are two, I think really important pieces to consider here, which is we know that African-American parents have "the talk" with their kids and there are a number of reasons. One is for their own safety. And I think we have to also understand that this could be a moment where we need to worry about our children's safety. How are we going to equip them, should something happen? How can we let them know where they can get resources? We have seen in our data, a number of families reporting things that happened to their kids in school. In addition to making sure that adults are taking care of this issue and handling it in the proper way, we need to help our kids be advocates for themselves.
And I think really in the most age appropriate ways, we need essentially as parents to help them understand the world, right? Isn't that part of what we're essentially doing each and every day that we're with them from zero to 18, 'til they go off to college or to jobs? We're trying to help give them a better understanding of our planet, of our universe. And part of that understanding in this moment is that discrimination does happen. Hate is out there. They might actually experience it. Their friends might experience it. The only way to combat that is actually by giving them the tools to be able to deal with it and by having those conversations with them now. It's in some ways never too early. Again, you need to pick the time that's right for your own child, but say it early and say it often and have those so [conversations] so that they know that they can also come to you if, and when this happens to them.
EmbraceRace: And it can be devastating to not be prepared, right? Really devastating. Thank you. Thank you so much. We'd love to talk again.
Dr. Anatasia Kim: Thank you. Thank you, and good to be in this work, very important work with all of you.
EmbraceRace: Thank you so much.
General Mental Health
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has extensive resources specifically to help families deal with the aftermath of trauma.
- The Child Trauma Research Program trains therapists around the country and may be able to connect you to face-to-face resources where you live.
- The Child Mind Institute also has trauma resources for differently aged kids.
- Anxiety and Depression in Children, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention
- Children, Teens and Anxiety - Ten Easy Ways Parents Can Help, Dr. Anatasia Kim, Psychology Today
- True Allyship - Seeking, Speaking and Enacting Truth, Dr. Anatasia Kim, Psychology Today
- When to Speak Up: Handling Microagressions in Therapy, Dr. Anatasia Kim, Psychology Network
- They Blame Me Because I'm Asian, Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign (“the Youth Campaign”) interviewed 990 AAPI young adults across the United States about their experiences and feelings related to racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our key findings and recommendations stem from that data.
- I'm helping my Korean-American daughter embrace her identity to counter racism, Heidi Shin, New York Times
- How to be an ally: What you can do as a bystander to race-based harassment or violence, Jessica Roy, Los Angeles Times
Young, Proud, and Sung-jee: A Children's Book on Fighting Anti-Asian Racism During COVID-19, Joyce Y. Lee, Emily Ku and Maggie Chen - watch a video reading or download the PDF.
Social Justice Books - this fantastic source for reviews of multicultural and social justice books for children, YA and educators has an Asian and Asian American books section.
Lee and Low Books - Lee and Low is the largest independent multicultural children's book publisher in the country and has an extensive Asian and Pacific American children's book collection, including Asian Pacific American heritage books. They actually have deep collections featuring BIPOC protagonists across racial and ethnic groups. They have also created various book lists for EmbraceRace which we love and recommend.
Pragmatic Mom - this multicultural children's book blog features many lists across diverse groups including a meta list called 40+ Lists of Asian American Books for Kids.
Kibooka Books - Kids books by Korean American and the Korean diaspora.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners written by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho