Photo credit: Alyssa Pointer

5 Ways to Build Cultural Resilience in the Face of Anti-Asian Hate

In the past year alone, there were 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents reported, mostly against women and elderly. The escalating rhetoric and violence against Asian Americans culminated in a mass shooting in Atlanta last week where six Asian women were murdered as they worked to support themselves and their families.

Asians are tough. But we are learning that keeping our heads down and being stoic may not always be the best way to deal with challenges especially like the one we are facing now. Many are feeling incredible pain, fear, and grieving. What can we do to build our cultural resilience as we navigate what’s happening today?

Resilience is the psychological quality allowing us to bounce back in the face of trauma.  It’s finding a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue pressing forward in our goals.  Cultural resilience is realizing how our cultural values and beliefs impact how we face adversity and deal with trauma. 

As a family therapist and clinical trauma professional, I tell folks that resilience isn’t extraordinary or an “x” factor that you’re born or blessed with. Resilience is ordinary. Resilience can be learned and developed. It’s about being proactive and understanding that we must work at maintaining our mental health hygiene daily like we do with our physical hygiene.  After all, we’re talking about the health of our mind which is our emotional, social, and psychological wellbeing.   

There are protective factors and risk factors of our cultural resilience. 

  • Protective factors include turning to your community asking for help or seeking help (professional or personally).  This gives us courage and improves communication.
  • Risk factors include repressing thoughts and suppressing emotions to show face and save face which are acculturative stressors embedded in Asian culture as we well as being surrounded by the harmful and false narrative of the model minority myth. 

As we check in on members of our community who are hurting, here are some concrete things we can do to be an active part of the healing:

5 ways we can help ourselves and our community build cultural resilience.

1. Identify and claim your grief

Grief is very personal.  It can be from the deaths of the victims of violence, the loss of trust or feeling betrayed by authorities or those in law enforcement, or grief can also be any other change that has altered your life as you know it. Recognize that grief is a cycle  so you may be dealing with endless patterns of emotions that come and go.  That is okay.

2. Be mindful that experiencing anxiety is normal

It is a reaction to stress which is a part of life and the human experience. We need to dismantle cultural beliefs surrounding distress.  Being anxious or showing anxiety is NOT a sign of weakness.  Expressing your emotions is NOT burdensome to others. Talking about your struggles or how you’re struggling does NOT mean you’re being ungrateful or disrespectful. The paradox here is that accepting your anxiety helps you disengage from it, putting you more in control. 

3. Find and be an ally
  • We need allies everywhere now more than ever.  Our community, our relationships, our support systems is what we need now more than ever. Research across the board (such as the Harvard Happiness Study) points out that having a sense of belonging and not being lonely is the KEY to HAPPINESS.  
  • Having good mental health hygiene is your strongest ally to fight the good fight here and be effective and healthy in all aspects of your life. 
4. Embrace empathy and compassion

How can you be the best ally to other ethnic minorities / marginalized groups in your community?  What can they do to help you?  Make it your goal to answer these questions to be outcome oriented for change! 

5. Focus on what gives you hope and strength

It’s human nature to look at the negative, but that doesn’t help our mental health hygiene.  Each day ask yourself what helps you cope and what makes you feel better?  Then do more of it! The last thing we need is to NOT engage in activities or spend time with people because of our distress. That is the very thing we need now more than ever. 

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