Larry Lee: Asian Americans Standing Up

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Larry Lee has this Perspective on the continuing discrimination and attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

As an activist, I never thought I’d ever wish this but with all of this anti-Asian American racism, especially the attacks on our elderly, I wish that we were invisible. But this is a false choice. For decades as a psychotherapist and diversity consultant, I’ve been a persistent advocate of making the contributions of Asian Americans more known in this country’s narrative. However, instead of celebrating and affirming Asian Americans, we are all witnessing the scapegoating and senseless victimization of AAPIs, especially ironic considering May is AAPI heritage month.

I am experiencing outrage fatigue as I see attack after attack, with few being specifically characterized as racially motivated hate crimes. It’s crazy-making to know in my heart of hearts that what I see is based on race, but to not have it validated. It’s as if COVID and the former president have made us visible for all the wrong reasons. Asians being seen as carriers of disease is history repeating itself, regressing to a time when Chinese immigrants were detained at Angel Island for fear of the “diseases” they may bring. It’s almost as if the Pandora’s box of racial hate and intolerance manifesting as misguided aggression toward Asian American Pacific Islanders has been reopened. Never did I imagine we’d be reliving any semblance of this history again.

The recent stabbing of two Asian American elderly women on Market street waiting at a bus stop perpetrated by a 53-year-old man was painful to watch on the news. He had both a criminal and psychiatric history revealing shortcomings in our mental health and legal systems. It’s also been hard not to notice that some of these attacks have been Black on Asian victims. It’s sad that what should be uniting Asian and African Americans together in a parallel process of racial pain and solidarity, has instead exacerbated tensions between the two communities.

I am certainly not suggesting that becoming more invisible is the solution to protecting our elderly and vulnerable. On the contrary, we have to lay claim to all of these racist incidents and to have them fully visible. I am witnessing a movement where Asian Americans are discovering our voice of protest and rage. It’s been long in coming. We can be quiet no more.

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With a Perspective, I’m Larry Lee

Larry Lee is a San Francisco psychotherapist.