May 4: The Culture Canard of the Model Minority Myth | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited

tiger-mom

For this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, I will take each day to pull one of my favourite posts or pieces from the archives highlighting some aspect of AAPI history and heritage, and add to it a short commentary and reflection. I invite you to check back every day for this #ReappropriateRevisited month-long feature!

With the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement has come a series of important protests and uprisings, drawing attention to the persistent abuse that Black men and women face at the hands of police. Yet, even as mainstream attention is forced to focus on Blackness, a dubious narrative invariably also emerges: one that would pit Blacks against the supposedly more well-behaved and upwardly mobile Asian Americans. It took mere days for the media to distract from a larger discussion of Blackness and racial justice by focusing instead on Black-Asian tensions, told most recently by NPR through the lens of Asian American victims of Black protest movements.

Jeff Yang takes on this tired trope of Asian Americans distractingly pitted against Blacks in the struggle for Black uplift in his most recent editorial for CNN. His piece reminds me of David Shih’s recent viral article on the history of the Model Minority Myth, and its importance with regard to the Black Solidarity movement.

Meanwhile, for today’s ReappropriateRevisted, I pull from the archives one of my favourite pieces that I’ve written for the site. This post also dismantling the Model Minority Myth with relation to the Right’s stereotype of choice: Asian American cultural predispositions for academic achievement. It also ponders the question as to why some Asian Americans so deeply embrace this particular brand of the Model Minority Myth.

Continue reading “May 4: The Culture Canard of the Model Minority Myth | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited”

May 3: The Overlooked Battle Against Depression and Suicide Among SE Asian Americans | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited

Bhutanese American Tara Gurung and her husband. Tara's father, Ram Gurung, counseled fellow refugees from committing suicide. However, after moving to the United States with his wife and two adult daughters, Ram Gurung committed suicide last year at the age of 73. (Photo credit: Ryan Lessard, NHPR)
Bhutanese American Tara Gurung and her husband. Tara’s father, Ram Gurung, counseled fellow refugees from committing suicide. However, after moving to the United States with his wife and two adult daughters, Ram Gurung committed suicide last year at the age of 73. (Photo credit: Ryan Lessard, NHPR)

For this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, I will take each day to pull one of my favourite posts or pieces from the archives highlighting some aspect of AAPI history and heritage, and add to it a short commentary and reflection. I invite you to check back every day for this #ReappropriateRevisited month-long feature!

Yesterday, I revisited one of my most popular listicles regarding mental health and mental illness within the AAPI community (Mental Health Awareness Week: Top 10 Myths about Asian Americans and Mental Health). This listcle reflects how most of us popularly conceptualize the issue of AAPI mental health: through statistics about high rates of depression and suicide among women and on college campuses. Studies clearly support a focus on subpopulations of AAPI women and youth as particularly at-risk with regard to unaddressed mental illness. However, our persistent framing of the AAPI mental health issue only through these two lenses ignores two other particularly vulnerable AAPI populations: Southeast Asian American refugees and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders.

I remember attending an AAPI conference early in my career as an activist and blogger (which conference it was has long since left my memory) wherein I was first introduced to the need to disaggregate epidemiological data along ethnic lines to reveal ethnicity-specific disparities that specifically impact Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the time, all data for AAPI were lumped together, and the relatively small proportion of Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders within our community masked these patterns. At the time of the conference, disaggregated data were rare: now, studies have confirmed alarming public health issues for Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Only when I started writing on the topic of mental health — and therefore read a number of primary source material — did I learn about the scope of this issue.

With regard to depression and suicide, a shockingly high number of Southeast Asian American refugees live with symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Rates of suicide ideation and attempts are significantly higher for Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — particularly among youth and when compounded with queer identities — compared to the average rate for Asian Americans or the national average as a whole.

Yet, when we talk about AAPI mental health, we rarely ever include in our conversations meaningful discussion about Southeast Asian Americans or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. Why is that? Is there a certain amount of reinforced privilege in focusing our conversation on AAPI mental health entirely to the exclusion of our Southeast Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander brethren?

Continue reading “May 3: The Overlooked Battle Against Depression and Suicide Among SE Asian Americans | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited”

May 2: 10 Myths (and Facts) About #AAPI Mental Health | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited

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For this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, I will take each day to pull one of my favourite posts or pieces from the archives highlighting some aspect of AAPI history and heritage, and add to it a short commentary and reflection. I invite you to check back every day for this #ReappropriateRevisited month-long feature!

May is AAPI History and Heritage Month, but it is also national Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health is a critical issue for AAPIs. In many studies, AAPIs — young men, women, seniors, and college students — are more likely to experience depression and anxiety-related symptoms than people of other races. Among certain segments of the population, mental health and suicide rates are higher — in some cases significantly higher — than the national average.

Yet, within our community, mental health issues rarely receive attention. Stigmas that either silence conversation about mental health, or alternatively that spread misinformation about mental illness, abound within the AAPI community. AAPI who are fighting mental health issues are treated with shame and suspicion, and therefore rates of reporting mental health concerns are particularly low for our community.

I am particularly impassioned about AAPI mental health. I believe that our reluctance to address this highly prevalent health concern is literally hurting (and even sadly, in some cases, killing) our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters. When we are unwilling to have the uncomfortable, difficult, and emotionally draining conversations about mental health awareness and education that our community desperately needs, our complacence makes us complicit in a deeply wounding silence.

Every story of an AAPI suicide is, for me, a heart-breakingly preventable loss that results in part from our unwillingness to politically prioritize this issue within the AAPI community.

Continue reading “May 2: 10 Myths (and Facts) About #AAPI Mental Health | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited”

May 1: The Untold Story of AAPI and the Labour Movement | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited

Larry Itliong stands alongside Cesary Chavez in front of NFWA headquarters in July 28, 1967. (Photo credit: AP Photo/ Harold Filan)
Larry Itliong stands alongside Cesary Chavez in front of NFWA headquarters in July 28, 1967. (Photo credit: AP Photo/ Harold Filan)

For this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, I will take each day to pull one of my favourite posts or pieces from the archives highlighting some aspect of AAPI history and heritage, and add to it a short commentary and reflection. I invite you to check back every day for this #ReappropriateRevisited month-long feature!

Today is May 1st, the first day of AAPI History and Heritage Month. Today is also May Day or International Workers’ Day, an unofficial day for celebration of the working class and labourers.

For the inaugural post of this month’s #ReappropriateRevisited celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, I am revisiting this post I wrote last September — Remembering Two Historic Moments for AAPI & the Labour Movement | #LaborDay — highlighting the important and historic intersection between the AAPI community and the labour movement.

One of my earliest formative memories in my journey towards identifying as an AAPI activist was my AAPI history course at Cornell where I read Ron Takaki’s Strangers From a Different Shore. Later, in another class, I read Carlos Bulosan’s America Is In The Heart. I was particularly struck by how both books rooted the AAPI struggle in America within the growing national labour movement of the early twentieth century. Contrary to the stereotypes (of the hard-working and long-suffering labourer who would rather display a strong work ethic than walk off the job), we were not silent bystanders in this struggle; we were in many ways defined by our widespread belief in improved workers’ rights. Whether on the sugar plantations of Hawaii or the sweatshops of New York City Chinatowns, we organized and stood up for our rights as labourers. Photographs of Asian American women taking to the streets by the thousands to strike against the owners of garment factories is forever inscribed into my mind as a quintessential symbol of what it means to not just be an empowered Asian American activist, but an Asian American feminist.

Nearly a century later, I’m also surprised that these momentous marches are almost entirely lost to history, and rarely taught in our classrooms. Why do we not remember the 1867 Chinese American Railroad Workers’ Strike that involved 2000 labourers walking off the worksite? Why do we not remember the 1982 New York City Garment Worker Strike which involved 20,000 garment workers — most of them Chinese American women? Why don’t we remember the names Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz?

For last September’s Labour Day, I wrote a post remembering two historic moments for AAPI and the Labour Movement; check out an excerpt after the jump.

Continue reading “May 1: The Untold Story of AAPI and the Labour Movement | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited”