As we close out May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we look back at the many conversations around the growing number of racist attacks on Asian Americans who were blamed for the coronavirus. These conversations must not end and we cannot pretend they don’t exist. May is also Mental Health Awareness month and racism is in every sense of the word, a mental health issue. It causes great emotional pain, makes entire communities anxious, afraid, and depressed. It pits one group against another and raises tension, leads to more anger, makes people not trust each other. Our communities feel unsafe both physically and emotionally.
Tragically, on May 25 the inexcusable taking of an innocent life sparked justified outrage. The victim was not a person of Asian ancestry but in a scenario that is unfortunately all too familiar, George Floyd was a Black male. If we are to be incensed about the racist attacks against Asian Americans, we must be equally outraged at the continued attacks on African Americans, Latinos, or member of the LGBTQ community.
Acts of violence are painful for any victim, but racism is particularly insidious, and the emotional impact can go even deeper. It isn’t a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time which can offer hope of avoiding those situations. It is a matter of being perceived as being the wrong kind of person all the time. There is no escape, nor should there have to be. A person shouldn’t feel “If only I were a different skin color, sexual orientation, gender, religion I would be safe.”
The challenge for us as a society is how we respond. It is hard to condone the use of violence, yet it is understandable why emotions reach a boiling point. Anger is the consequence of the frustration that builds up generation after generation when little is done and some feel the only way to be heard. Unfortunately, violence also takes more innocent victims. As buildings burn, people lose their businesses livelihoods and homes. More lives may be lost and communities that are hard pressed for resources must now find ways to rebuild. Hopefully this time, we may have reached the tipping point and real change will happen.
The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, NAAPIMHA, joins other Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in strongly supporting Black Lives matter, calls for a full investigation and responsible parties be held accountable and brought to justice. COVID-19 has raised the emotional temperature in this country to a breaking point. Now more than ever, we must all come together to seek justice not only for George Floyd, and all the others who have die needlessly and for those who have suffered because of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism or any other form of oppression. We literally cannot afford for this to continue.