Last Saturday, legendary Star Trek actor and activist George Takei arrived at a charity event with a bandage on his face, ContactMusic.com reports; the actor was recovering from having had a cancerous skin growth removed from his face earlier in the week. The cancer was detected in its early stages during a routine visit to the doctor the week prior, and removed.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with over 3.5 million new cases diagnosed each year. But, for AAPI, skin cancer is a particularly significant health concern: AAPI have among the lowest survival rates from skin cancer of any race or ethnicity.
On October 29th of this year, the Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) is sponsoring the 9th Annual API Hope & Recovery Conference, a day-long event for Asian American & Pacific Islander mental health advocates to share their stories of hope, recovery and advocacy, and that is free to mental health clients, family members, parents and caregivers.
It has been nearly a month since the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, and in that time, the nation has become engrossed in a long overdue national conversation over race, race relations, racial profiling and police brutality. Countless think-pieces have been written about police brutality, school-to-prison pipelines, racial profiling, the myth of Black criminality, Black-on-Black crime, and cultural pathology. In this past month, it has seemed as if the entire country is struggling through their first “race moment”, forced by Brown’s untimely death to grapple with the fact of institutionalized racism against the Black body; this seems like an issue that too many would rather ignore.
Consequently, several mainstream media outlets have reported on the stark racial divide between Black and White Americans on Ferguson and whether or not racism is a problem in America; nearly half surveyed White Americans think Brown’s shooting death is being overracialized. While two-thirds of Black Americans think excessive force by police is a problem, only one-third of White Americans agree. This clear chasm between Black and White attitudes on race and police effectiveness is both well-documented and not altogether surprising: these answers are heavily influenced by one’s own personal experiences with racism and police brutality, and both economic and skin privilege often protects Whites from unjust run-ins with local police.
But where do Asian Americans — who are both people of colour yet who endure a completely different set of racial stereotypes in America than do other minorities — fall on questions of police brutality?
Over the past several years, anti-abortion lawmakers have been using a variety of legislative tactics to throw legal barriers in front of abortion access; their goal being to make abortion so difficult, bureaucratic and harrowing a process as to render it a completely impractical option for most women seeking reproductive care. From proposing a host of manipulative restrictions or bans (such as fetal heartbeat bills) or attacking clinic buffer zones designed to protect patients from the harassment of street protesters, the new war on Roe is being waged incrementally. Abortion opponents no longer seek to overturn Roe in one fell swoop, but instead hope to give Roe a death by a thousand papercuts.
One recent tactic in vogue among Republican anti-abortion lawmakers is to seek to pass a new kind of anti-abortion bill: one so racist and sexist as to demand outcry from Asian American advocacy groups. In the last few years, these anti-choice legislators have put forward over 60 bills in various states, seeking to outlaw sex-selective abortion: abortions purportedly conducted based on the fetus’ sex and specifically to select for male children. The rationale for these bans is that because sex-selective abortions are allegedly widely practiced in countries like China and India (a recent study suggests they are not — male-biased sex ratios are found throughout the world including in White-majority countries, and surveys reveal no universally stated preference for male children over female children in Asian countries), and because Asian Americans are among the fastest growing racial population in the country, that sex-selective abortion bans are necessary to prevent Asian and Asian American women from essentially bringing sex-selective abortion practices to the states.
Although GOP lawmakers assert that the justification for sex-selective abortion bans is a feminist one, a close consideration of their rationale reveals that it is actually based on nothing more than thinly-veiled anti-Asian woman stereotyping. There is no evidence that Asian American women are practicing sex-selective abortion in any part of America; yet this law allows the myth of the immoral and misogynistic Asian American parent to persist not only unchallenged, but now as part of state law in eight states.
Today is September 10th, and it is World Suicide Prevention Day, part of this week’s National Suicide Prevention Week. On this week — and especially on this day — mental health advocates around the world join forces to try and raise awareness about mental health, mental illness and suicide, and erase the stigma around these conversations.
As I’ve written in the past, ending the stigma around conversations on mental health and suicide within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are of critical importance to me. Those who live with depression fight an invisible and omnipresent daily battle, and many of them are part of our community: Asian American women have the highest rate of depression and suicide among women of any race and ethnicity. On college campuses, Asian American youth report higher rates of depression symptoms — regardless of gender — than do their White peers. Yet, due in part to stigmas surrounding mental illness and inadequate mental health resources, Asian Americans have among the lowest rate of reporting for symptoms of depression, and wait until symptoms are more severe before they decide to see a doctor.
Consequently, suicide rates are alarmingly high among Asian Americans. As mentioned, Asian American women of most ages have the highest rate of suicide among women of all races, as well as the higher rates of contemplating suicide. Studies show that Native Hawaiians have high rates of contemplating suicide, and Pacific Islander youth, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ, had markedly higher rates of self-harm and suicide than White gay or straight teens. Southeast Asian Americans ethnicities commit suicide at the highest rate of any refugee population, and at rates several times greater than the national average. Two studies conducted in 1994 also revealed that Chinese American and Japanese American elders — particularly elderly men — had the highest rate of suicide among any elderly population within the United States.