This post comes from Paula Nourse, the Director of Marketing at the DHM
I am a woman of African-American and Native American decent. I am also director of marketing at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance where the study of Jewish history and the Holocaust have become a passion for me. Because of this background, you might think I am desensitized to the incivility and inhumanity that human beings can heap upon on one another. Desensitized? Not at all. I watched as discrimination and bullying destroyed my father’s spirit. I have listened to the horror stories of my Native friends who talk about the rapes and kidnappings of children by non-Native people which still occur on reservations today. Despite my knowledge of the realities of racism and bullying, I was floored to learn that Asian Americans experience more discrimination, bullying and intolerance than any other ethnic group in the United States.
According to Jeff Yang who writes for the Wall Street Journal, “young Asian Americans are facing a bullying epidemic. Last year the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a joint study showing that over half of Asian American teens said they’d been the subject of targeted abuse at school, versus approximately a third of blacks, Hispanics and whites.” AAPI Nexus reported that Asian American students are bullied in American schools much more than students belonging to any other ethnic group.
My mind is full of questions. What? How? Why is this happening? Let’s start with “what” and “why”. According to Yang, Asian Americans are disproportionately targeted for abuse due to their real or perceived “social awkwardness, physical frailty and academic overachievement…” He adds that there is a rising tide of animosity toward immigrants and to those who look different. Many Asian Americans are also misperceived as being predominately Muslim.
Why didn’t I know this was happening? I knew that anti-Semitism is once again on the rise. I know first hand that the election of Barack Obama did not usher in a renewed acceptance and understanding of African Americans. The problem is that targeted bullying of Asian Americans goes largely unreported. Yang writes, “cultural and familial expectations push [children of immigrants] to submit to bullying” and they suffer in silence.
Their silence in the face of bullying has its consequences: “over the last ten years, depression rates among Asian Americans have skyrocketed.” Suicide is now the fifth most common cause of death among Asian Americans.
One such suicide caught international headlines recently—Private Danny Chen killed himself after allegedly facing considerable bullying and abuse by his fellow soldiers while based in Afghanistan due to his Chinese heritage. All bullying is wrong, no doubt about it. But the fact that these victims are suffering silently is a tragedy.
Now that I know about this tragedy, I’m going to tell others…and that’s just a start.