How Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Are Affecting College Students
Published on April 16, 2021
Reviewed by Angelique Geehan
Surveys show that the majority of Asian Americans perceive the U.S. as their home. But while around 80% of Chinese Americans and 90% of Filipino Americans feel the U.S. is home, about 2 in 3 also say they feel discriminated against because of their race.
Asian American college students navigate a similar duality of success and struggle. The number of Asian American students enrolled in college continues to chart a steep upward course that began in the early 1990s. But the success of many Asian American students belies the challenges they face.
About 2 in 3 Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans say they feel discriminated against because of their race.
Long considered a "model minority," Asian Americans may face stronger pressure to perform academically and persevere through personal crises without asking for help. They're also at significantly higher risk than their peers of developing suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide.
Recently, increases in anti-Asian hate crimes and racism have spurred college students to join the discourse on the challenges Asian Americans face and what actions must be taken to dismantle the system that allows such incidents to happen.
In order to better understand how these and other issues are affecting Asian American college students, we interviewed Sheena Yap Chan, an author, speaker, and coach focused on helping Asian women build confidence.
Interview With Sheena Yap Chan
How might the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans be impacting AAPI college students?
One thing AAPI students might deal with is having more anxiety than normal because we feel like we've become a target and are being blamed for the pandemic. When former President Donald Trump said things like "Chinese virus" and "kung flu," it really hurt the Asian community as a whole.
This myth that all viruses come from China … makes every Asian person a target, even students.
There is this myth that all viruses come from China, and that all Asians are of Chinese descent, which makes every Asian person a target, even students.
Not only do AAPI college students have to worry about their studies, but they also have to deal with more microaggressions from students of other cultures. Furthermore, they have to deal with their own mental health issues from being on lockdown while worrying about their parents, since many older Asian Americans are being attacked due to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
This can take a huge toll on students — physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Have the challenges facing AAPI communities changed over time?
One of the things that's changed over time is that more people are promoting mental health, which has been a big taboo in our community. I'm seeing more resources and platforms that have created safe spaces for the AAPI community to open up about mental health issues and be okay with seeking help.
How have these challenges affected AAPI women in particular?
AAPI women still face many challenges due to our upbringing. We've been taught to never make any noise, to stay in the background, and to do as we're told, and because of that, we've become an easier target for racist attacks and abuse.
This is why it's so important to showcase more strong, brave, and powerful Asian women so that our current and future generations have Asian female role models to look up to.
We also have to encourage Asian women to speak up when they've become targets of racist attacks. I've heard so many stories in which women have been spat on, harassed, or beaten up, but do not report it. They don't say anything because they don't want to cause any trouble, even though it wasn't their fault to begin with.
What are successful coping strategies for AAPI students experiencing increased distress as a result of current events?
I think being able to share your feelings about the whole situation can really help a person out, whether it's talking to your friends, your family, a community, or a mental health professional.
Now is not the time to think that seeking help is weak.
I sometimes hold Clubhouse chats in which women can feel safe talking about how they're feeling. It makes a huge difference when women can share what they feel because other people start speaking up about similar situations and realize that we're not alone in this journey.
Also, be okay with seeking help. Now is not the time to think that seeking help is weak. We have to learn to let our guards and pride down, and to seek the help we need to get better.
In your work, how do you increase resilience and self-confidence, and how might this apply to AAPI college students?
I recently gave a leadership and confidence workshop at a university here in Canada, and I mentioned to students how this line of work is a long road ahead full of bumps along the way — but we can get it done.
Also, being honest with the students about what it takes to be a leader helped them understand the challenges they'll have to confront, such as facing your fears, overcoming rejection, and learning to make the first move.
I think being honest with students will help them realize what we have to go through to get the work done, and will help them learn that even if they fall down, it's part of the process and gives them the confidence to get back up and keep moving forward.
Do you have any recommendations for books or resources for college students on these topics?
We have a book called "Asian Women Who Boss Up," in which we highlight the stories of 18 Asian women who are able to forge their own paths, overcome obstacles, and ultimately thrive. In addition, I created a list of Asian-hosted podcasts that students can check out and listen to whenever they have free time.
There are also amazing groups on Facebook you can join, such as Asian Hustle Network, Asian Women Entrepreneurs, RYSE - Professional Asian Network, Asian American Podcasters Association, and Asian Podcast Network.
Angelique Geehan works to support and repair the connections people have to themselves and their families, communities, and cultural practices. A queer, Asian, gender-binary, nonconforming parent, Geehan founded Interchange, a consulting group that offers anti-oppression support. She organizes as part of several groups, including National Perinatal Association's Health Equity Workgroup, the Health and Healing Justice Committee of the National Queer and Trans Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance, QTPOC+ Family Circle, and Batalá Houston.
Feature Image: MediaNews Group / The Mercury News via Getty Images / Contributor