Mental Wellness Affinity Group Hosts Breakout Session at the 2023 Annual Conference

On November 9, the USJC Mental Wellness Affinity Group hosted a breakout session titled “Leadership Addressing Anti-Asian Hate” during the 2023 Annual Conference in Washington, DC. This session delved into insights and recommendations for preventing and countering Anti-Asian hate, with a specific focus on the impact on physical and mental health and its implications for the U.S.-Japan community and beyond. Dr. Jeanette Takamura, Professor and Dean Emerita of the Columbia School of Social Work, initiated and moderated the discussion, encouraging the audience to explore how leaders in policy, community and mental health services are addressing this challenging issue at various levels and how individuals can contribute to addressing this issue in their lives and communities.

The panel discussion opened with a video remark from Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, who highlighted how the onset of the COVID pandemic fueled misinformation and xenophobia, leading to the blame of Asian Americans for the virus and subsequent economic hardships. She noted that over 11,500 anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents have been reported since 2020, emphasizing that such discrimination against Asian American communities dates back to the 1800s during the era of the yellow peril. Congresswoman Chu stressed the importance of educating the public that Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) history is integral to American history. She added that this effort requires collaboration with leaders in government, business, academia and nonprofits committed to advancing unity, equity and justice for all marginalized communities, not just Japanese Americans.

Karen Narasaki, Former Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, emphasized the crucial role of diversity in the media to address anti-Asian hate. She expanded that a varied media landscape ensures a comprehensive understanding of societal challenges and sheds light on the often-overlooked struggles faced by Asian communities. She explained that by featuring diverse narratives, media helps combat stereotypes, fosters empathy and promotes understanding, contributing to a more just and equitable society in the fight against anti-Asian hate.

Dr. Thomas Parham, President of California State University, Dominguez Hills, highlighted the significance of a coalition between the Black and Asian communities in tackling racism in the United States. He mentioned that by joining forces, these communities amplify their voices, challenge stereotypes and collectively address systemic discrimination. He explained that this united front embodies the strength of diversity, fostering a shared commitment to equality and justice and creating a potent force for positive social change.

Cynthia Choi, Co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, shared her team’s commitment to fighting against racism and racial injustice targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She reported that together, they collaborate with local communities and government stakeholders to document the rise of anti-AAPI hate and dismantle the systems that allow it to persist.

The Mental Wellness Affinity Group extends sincere gratitude to everyone who played key roles in planning the breakout sessions. If you are interested in getting involved in the Mental Wellness Affinity Group, please email the group at [email protected].