Dear Dr. Hwang:
“I don’t know how anyone can think we live in a post-racial society, when we are surrounded by news of racism? How do you think racism affects the mental health of Asians?”
When President Obama was voted into office in 2007, the phrase, “A Post-Racial Society,” was born. The phrase, “A Post racial Society,” suggested that the people in the United States of America had moved beyond racism and racist practices, implying racism in the USA was a thing of the past. Syllogistically, if A=B and B=C then A=C. However, this type of logic doesn’t always prevail in political scenarios, especially when attached to power and privilege.
It is my opinion that we are not in a post-racial society. Given the statistics regarding the unequal distribution of wealth among white people versus people of color in the United States of America, it is clear that people of color continue to suffer from unfair and unequal practices when it comes to access to power, privilege and resources.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once shared that racism isn’t just a people of color issue, but it is an issue that affects all humans. His speech eloquently implied that when all things are equal, everyone regardless of color should be able to have the same opportunities, education and accessibility as White people. Until equality is the norm, then a healthy existence as a collective whole is compromised.
Racism and the combined experiences of racism creates distress for people who are systematically excluded. While it is true that some people of color are able to transcend beyond racial barriers, despite enormous odds. Most psychological research suggests that oppression, combined with racial discrimination creates a multitude of significant physical, emotional and psychological health problems.
Specific to Asians, mental health concerns can emerge over time if racism remains unacknowledged. Some Asian cultures may impose an internalization of mental health concerns, due to taboo beliefs, which require people to suppress, repress and deny emotional and psychological symptoms related to racism.
However, this is not true in all cases. On the other hand, some Eastern philosophical beliefs regarding meditation, harmony and living collectively may work to combat negative symptoms of racism. Culturally and racially, each Asian group is significantly different and similar at the same time, not to mention the sub-groups and cultures within each group or system. There are many variables to consider that are complex and culture bound.
However, regardless of race and ethnicity, counteracting the emotional impact of racism is no small task. Racism is alive in the United States of America and we are definitely the recipients of this magnanimous, historical system, which continues to promote policies and practices that condone the practice of racism. Acknowledging our experiences, seeking support and learning coping mechanisms to counteract distress are all important as we continue to cope with insurmountable odds which too often communicate that we are inferior.
Stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans are rampant. One way to deal with racism is to start by acknowledging the existence of it, so we can deal with reality versus fantasy.
To suggest a post-racial society is intact is not mentally healthy for Asians or anyone for that matter. Denial of racism only contributes to increased mental health symptoms and isolates people from obtaining the support they truly deserve to deal with the emotional aftermath of ongoing experiences.