Across the country, we’ve seen an alarming rise in violence against Asian Americans over the past year. In New York City, police reported a 1,900 percent increase in hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment in 2020. Stop AAPI Hate released figures showing that, since the pandemic began, 1,226 self-reported acts of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans took place in California alone. Today, a white man was arrested and charged for the murder of eight people at three spas in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian women. While racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) has always been present (see: the damaging model minority myth), for many people, it’s taken the rampant xenophobic violence of the past year to show how deep-seated these sentiments really are.
If you’re non-AAPI, you might be wondering how to reach out to your AAPI friends and family during this time — or if you even should. As YR Media mental health editor L’Oreal Thompson Payton pointed out on Twitter, reaching out an AAPI person with whom you don’t have a current relationship (like an old classmate or colleague) “can do more harm than good.” If you’re white, she explained, “essentially you’re looking to us [insert marginalized person here] to help assuage your white guilt. Which actually creates emotional labor on behalf of the marginalized person.”
In other words, “Know your relationship,” said therapist Edward Lee, LMHC. “Your reach-out should come from a genuine and authentic place. It should be congruent with your relationship.”
If you are on close speaking terms with an AAPI person, it’s appropriate to speak out and offer them your support, even if you feel awkward doing so — it’s better than staying silent. Still, there are a few definite do’s and don’t’s to make sure you aren’t accidentally deepening their trauma or harming their mental health further. Ahead, find seven tips for how to reach out to your AAPI friends in a way that acknowledges their pain and lends support.