Dear Kiki: My grandma is a victim of anti-Asian hate but my parents don’t want to report. What should I do?

In this month’s advice column, a reader struggles with their family’s hesitance to report an Asian hate incident.

Dear Kiki,

I recently found out from my parents that my grandma experienced an Asian hate incident a few months ago. I am very upset that they didn’t tell me about this sooner. I want to report it, but they won’t let me. I know there are generational differences, but how can I make them understand the importance of reporting and why we can’t just sweep this under the rug?

-Very Angry Asian?

Dear Very Angry Asian,

I am sorry to hear that your grandmother was targeted in an anti-Asian racist incident. It breaks my heart to think about all the pain that has been inflicted on her and the lasting impact on her mental health. Regardless of how it happened, an event like this can lead to trauma and is enough to threaten one’s sense of safety and shatter their trust in the world.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images Ringo Chiu

I, too, am outraged. Even though I don’t know your grandmother personally, an assault on a member of the Asian community, especially an elder, is an attack on our community as a whole.

Historically, we have buried our anger and pain, or “swept it under the rug”, but we have come to realize that suppressing these emotions brews toxicity and negatively affects our and the greater community’s well-being. Therefore, I appreciate that you are doing your best to channel your emotions into positive action. As such, reporting is a constructive way to bring awareness to racially-motivated crimes and call for justice.

You might be ready to spring into action, but despite your best intentions, your parents are not as eager to get onboard. It can feel extremely frustrating and hurtful to get shut down and excluded from the decision table. You love your grandmother and want to protect her. The inability to do so can leave you feeling helpless and powerless. Without agency, you feel hindered in your ability to move on and heal as a family.

While your parents’ reluctance to report the crime may be infuriating, it is possible they are feeling just as helpless as you. In a time of crisis, individuals default to what they know – and for them, it’s to dust everything off and carry on. Growing up in different generations, our parents and grandparents were presented with their unique sets of challenges and circumstances, which heavily influenced their value systems, communication style, and coping mechanisms. 

You cannot change who they are, but you can empower them to reclaim their voice and dignity. In order to do so, you must start from a place of compassion and humility. Listen and learn their stories. Honour their lived experiences and make them feel heard. 

The history of discrimination and racism against Asians in North America runs deep, compounded by the previous trauma of government oppression and dire living conditions that many immigrants had hoped to leave behind in their ancestral land. The oppression, discrimination, and microaggressions that they faced led to the insiduous belief that their voices no longer mattered. By opening up this dialogue, you can gain a better understanding of their challenges and fears, and perhaps help them to reconcile with any trauma they’ve bottled up. 

So, I encourage you to call up your grandma. Even if you are fired up, remember that your grandma is your number one priority. Check in with her and be there for her. Ask how she is doing or offer to run errands for her. (Acts of service always work well with the elderly!) It is possible she might not want to recount the incident, but it doesn’t mean that you should take part in minimizing her pain.

Upon further conversation, you might discover that she is angry too, but she has not had the outlet to express it nor the appropriate support. Language barriers and cultural stigma are two primary contributors to underreporting. According to AAPI Data, Asian Americans experience hate incidents at a higher percentage than the general population but are among the least likely to feel comfortable reporting hate crimes to authorities. (According to AAPI Data, one out of every four Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced a hate crime, much higher than the number of incidents reported.)

Despite these hurdles, you can begin bridging the gaps by arming your family with knowledge and tools. Educate them on the dangers of the surging anti-Asian racist attacks and why these statistics are vital to informing meaningful systemic changes. Enlighten them on what constitutes a hate incident, including verbal assaults and property damage, and how to report these crimes.

Then, be available to assist with any language and technological help as needed. Share examples that demonstrate how individual voices really can lead to progress, such as the anti-Asian bill which was passed last month with nearly unanimous vote. There is ample coverage in the spike in Asian hate and communities around the globe are rallying in support of the Asian community.

Most importantly, emphasize that the actions we take as individuals will have an enduring impact on the wider Asian community and future generations. Xenophobia and injustice against Asians and other communities of colour have been around longer than us.

Having had more decades of life experience, I believe that our parents and grandparents can relate to the pain and struggles of being stereotyped and othered. While we have our differences, we are united in our collective goal. 

I often think about the 75-year-old grandma who was attacked in San Francisco’s Chinatown. After receiving overwhelming support through a Go Fund Me fundraiser, she redirected nearly $1 million in support of the fight against racism. What she did was incredibly inspiring and heartwarming, but I believe that seeing the community come together to stand behind her ultimately solidified her belief in this movement.

Photo credit: Jason Leung on Unsplash

As the collective voice of Asian North Americans becomes louder and more distinct, we need to acknowledge that the momentum we are gaining today is buoyed by the contributions and quiet perseverance of generations before us. 

Let’s unfurl that rug and give it a good shake. It’s bound to get messy, but this is how we can start anew on this path out of the dark times to end generational trauma and heal together. 

Always here for you,

Kiki


Dear Kiki is Cold Tea Collective’s advice column and it is published in the last week of every month. To get advice from Kiki, submit your questions and comments here. You can also follow along for the latest column in our newsletter.


Featured photo credit: Jason Leung on Unsplash

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