Anti-Asian Racism and its Impact on Social Health Determinants
The March 16 shooting tragedy in several Atlanta-area spas brought a great wave of shock to Asian Americans living in the United States.
Robert Aaron Long went to three different massage parlors and killed eight women, of which six of them were Asian. Long claimed it was done in an attempt to end his sex addiction, but many saw it as an act of violence motivated by racism towards Asian-Americans.
Incidents such as the Atlanta shooting have likely become a trigger to Americans of Asian descent, especially after a year filled with acts of Anti-Asian racism in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have been prevalent in the US for over a hundred years. But according to The Washington Post, hate crimes ranging from verbal threats to physical violence have increased by 150% in the past year alone.
Earlier in 2020, President Donald J. Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and the “Kung flu.” Following this, many Asian Americans reported being verbally assaulted with such statements. A couple of days after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global pandemic, Abraham Choi received a death threat from a stranger in a Penn Station bathroom in New York. “All of you should die, and all of you have the Chinese virus,” said the man, who also coughed and spit on Choi.
Source: Stop AAPI Hate
In 2020, a total of 3,292 hate crimes were reported by Stop AAPI Hate, a non-profit social organization created in response to increasing violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
In Oakland’s Chinatown, there had been reports of at least 20 robberies and attacks against Asian residents by the start of 2021. This was followed by cases of physical assault, one in which an 84-year-old Asian man was murdered by a man who pushed him down on the sidewalk. A grandmother in San Jose was robbed during Lunar New Year celebrations; on the same day, Noel Quintana was slashed across the face on his way to work.
By February 28, Stop AAPI Hate had received a total of 503 similar reports.
This amount of hateful acts towards AAPI can affect not only their physical health and safety, but also their mental well-being.
A study published in PLoS One aimed to understand how racism affects the social determinants of health, factors at the societal level that influence individual health status. The study shows that experiencing racism is related to reduced general health, especially in Asian Americans and Latin Americans, who showed the highest rates of poor mental health, including anxiety, depression, psychological stress, and more. The burden on mental health is twice that compared to the effect on physical health.
The effects of racism on physical and mental health manifest in many ways: lower access to employment, housing, and education, impact on emotional condition, stress burden affecting the body physically, less engagement in healthy activities like sleep and exercise, taking part in unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol consumption, and even physical injury due to violence.
Racism is not a simple point of view of someone towards a single person of a specific ethnicity. It causes harm to everyone in those communities, affecting their individual health. Over a year from the start of the pandemic, cases of racial injustice are still on the rise, showing a need for action.
There is a total of 3,795 reported Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders discrimination cases from March 2020 to February 2021.
The cases are broken down as 68.1% verbal harassment, 20.5% avoidance, and 11.1% physical assault aimed at AAPI in the past year.
Chinese Americans received the most acts of discrimination.
Racism is mostly delivered through verbal harassment, avoidance, and physical violence.
Racism affects social determinants of health and is associated with lower mental and physical health.