Want to Stop Asian Hate? Start by Passing the Build Back Better Act

A family draws images of money, house, clothing, and games on a chalkboard.

By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)

Last year, on the campaign trail, our first Asian American vice presidential candidate spoke about her mom. She recalled how Shyamala Gopalan Harris — a proud, Indian-American immigrant and single mother — would “work around the clock,” “pack lunches before we woke up” and “pay bills after we went to bed.” 

It’s a struggle Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) mothers know too well: Can I get a good job? Can I afford to pay my bills before the cost of childcare eats everything up? Will my aging parents get the care they need? Will my kids have a better future than my own?

With Washington deep in negotiations on President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, AAPI mothers across America are asking themselves the same questions. 

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Are you a good desi or a bad desi?

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

By Guest Contributors: Avani Chhaya & Soham Sengupta

Truth is, you can inadvertently be both a good and bad desi.

A desi, an individual of South Asian descent, is dropped into two buckets. If you are a desi like us, you have probably also heard your aunties and uncles refer to “good” and “bad” desis. “Bad” desis are the lower-wage earners in South Asian communities, including teachers, taxi drivers, artists, convenience store workers and motel employees.

“This is your last year of teaching, right?” was the oft-repeated question from our parents. “To what?” was often our reply. Our parents’ responses came swift: “To other things.” This conversation plays out across South Asian households with desi parents wanting their children to become a Dr. or L.L.B — the “good” desi careers that were decidedly not our M.Ed’s. Those “other” occupations include medical school, business school, or law school —  careers steeped in prestige. Teaching, on the other hand, is hardly given a nod of recognition and is more commonly regarded as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things.

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Without Air For So Long: Asian American in the Age of Coronavirus

A person holds a hand-written sign that reads "I'm Not a Virus".

By Guest Contributor: Amy Zhou

This piece was originally published in The Wake Magazine.

I often wonder: will I ever be American enough for the country I was born and raised in? Will I ever be Minnesotan enough for the state that I grew up in? From Chinese exclusion to Japanese internment, has there ever been a time when Asian Americans weren’t a hair’s width away from being aliens? Our history has been manipulated and molded into something palatable that whiteness is comfortable with. We have been doled out slivers of humanity on the condition of our complicity. But anything — a war, a pandemic, a skit — can expose how dispensable we have always been to them.

I miss the bustling streets of Shanghai with their never-ending streams of pedestrians going to and from work. The smell of cigarettes and a slight hint of sewage, but also of the cong you bing frying on a nearby street cart. I miss the yell of Chinese and the concert of people moving, going, hustling, doing. The streets of Shanghai are where I’m from; my parents immigrated in 1990. I was born nine years later in Corpus Christi, Texas, a world away from the origins of my blood. I grew up grossed out by the Chinese food my mother made and embarrassed by my parent’s accents when we went out in public. So much of my life has been spent trying to assimilate myself into my whiter surroundings, rejecting all the yellow parts of me.

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API Mental Health: Let’s Stop Talking Taboos and Start Talking Racism

Photo credit: Alexander Koromilas / Flickr

By: Jen Soriano (@lionswrite)

Editor’s Note: As of May 22, 2018 the author has modified this essay to include more Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) examples and statistics, thanks to a reader’s comments and resources on Pacific Islander erasure vs. visibility, disaggregation and inclusion.

I’m not (very) afraid to say it loud and clear: I am one of more than 2.2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who live with a diagnosable mental illness in any given year, and I know I’m not alone.

2.2 million amounts to the entire population of Houston, Texas. It adds up to the entire U.S. population of Japanese-Americans and Korean-Americans combined.

I am one of 2.2 million and I know I’m not alone, especially in this political era where we breathe toxic stress-like fumes. In this trumped-up climate of racist fire and ICE, any one of us could face mental health challenges at any given moment, just as any one of us feeling well today could wake up tomorrow with a cold.

But this is not just another call for the destigmatization of mental illness in AAPI communities. Acceptance is important. But we need more. We also need a structural analysis of belonging, which is key to mental health, and how racism continually disrupts that basic need.

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On Being a Brown Asian: Expanding the Boundaries of Asian America

(Photo credit: Flickr/thestarshine)

By: Anisa Khalifa

During my last year of university, I decided to explore beyond my close-knit group of friends and join some new clubs while I still had the opportunity. During Clubs Week, when all the clubs on campus set up booths in the common areas, one that caught my attention was the Asian Students’ Society. When I walked up to their table, the girl there told me non-Asians were welcome.

“I’m Asian,” I told her. She blinked at me.

I still joined, paid the dues, and went to one event, because I become stubborn when I’m made to feel that I don’t belong somewhere. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one at that event who looked like me, and not one person among the hundreds of attendees did anything but politely look past me.

The experience stayed with me, because it drove home a point that until then had been a vague constant in my peripheral awareness: In North America, when we say “Asian,” we mean East Asian. (I went to school at the University of Toronto, but although Canada’s relationship with race differs from ours in important ways, they have generally treated their Asian diaspora similarly to the US—unlike, for example, the U.K, where “Asian” has historically referred primarily to South Asians.) As a brown Asian American of Pakistani descent who often gets mistaken for Arab, I am used to not being included in this category that I clearly belong to.

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