The reluctance of Asian Americans to speak about anti-Asian racism must be considered within a broader cultural context. Stoicism is a highly prized characteristic in many Asian cultures. Studies have suggested that Asians are more reluctant to complain and rarely seek third-party remediation. Asian Americans are also less likely to utilize mental health resources than non-Asians.
In addition to this cultural predilection for silent suffering, Asians have been reluctant to speak out against anti-Asian racism because of the insidious model minority myth. They fear that giving voice to their experiences will be met with derisive suggestions to “stop being so sensitive” or comparisons to the very real traumatic effects of systemic racism on other communities of color.
The problem with eating bitterness is that it runs counter to the long and storied American tradition of using activism as a vehicle for change. This has undermined the dogged efforts of multiple generations of Asian American activists to humanize the Asian American experience.
To truly stop anti-Asian hate, we must reverse the long-standing dehumanization of Asian people and put an end to the apathy with which our society views the Asian American experience. Although we are all born with the capacity for empathy, it does take work to renew and replenish our empathetic well. In light of this, Asian Americans must no longer suffer in stoic silence. We must first offer our own voices so that others may amplify them. We need to feel comfortable sharing our own painful personal stories. This is how communication begins.
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