The recent heartbreaking event of the Atlanta shooting, together with the various, continual events of anti-Asian assaults on seniors drew some public attention to the hostility the Asian-American community is facing. As a first-generation Chinese immigrant in Australia, my heart breaks for the Asian brothers and sisters during this difficult time. Unfortunately, the discrimination towards Asians does not only exist in the United States alone, but is a global issue widely experienced in Asian diaspora communities.
Even in countries with a large Asian population like Australia (12 per cent of its overall population born in Asia, not including Australian-born Asians), most Asians experience various degrees of racism and micro-aggression at some point of their lives, if not regularly. A national online survey in Australia reported 84% of the Asian participants amongst the 6,001 participants experienced racism. The Covid-19 pandemic intensifies this issue even more. In another survey by The Australian National University (ANU) of more than 3,000 people, 84.5 per cent of Asian-Australians reported at least one instance of discrimination between January and October 2020. On top of the discrimination, the Asian community is largely underrepresented despite the size of its population (in Australia, under 4% of the Asian population is in leadership positions).
Then as the loving community of Christ, how do we care for and reach out to our seemingly quiet and reserved Asian neighbours both inside and outside our church community during this time of despair? Here are some practical things we can do:
- Showing your kindness and empathy by taking the initiative in starting the conversation. Your Asian neighbour may or may not be outspoken about their experience for various reasons, but it does not mean they are not hurting.
- Appreciate the differences. Asian communities are a lot like our food, where the ingredients brought together are distinctively different but works well with each other in harmony. Different but synchronised is a beautiful virtue to be valued.
- Don’t assume. We appreciate it when you admit you don’t know but want to know. The stories and cultures of various Asian communities are vastly different. When you ask us about our own experience, rather than try to group us together because of our skin colour or language we speak, we know you do care.
- Listening to our story empowers us. Acknowledge the struggles that the Asian diaspora go through with a focus on the individual stories. Sometimes, it is more effective to ask the question “what is your experience”, than simply ask “how are you going”.
- Take your mind off their accent or the way they interact or the way they look. If you want to learn our language, go beyond learning it as a tool but learn it for the culture experience.
- If your Asian neighbours celebrate any culturally distinctive celebratory occasion, celebrate with them, but don’t stop there. Learn about the history of the Asian community in your local area.
- Try our food. You don’t need to like them, but we will befriend you for the action of trying. Ask your Asian neighbour how they cook their food, not what is in there.
- Most importantly, do not see us as the foreign others, but see us as your neighbours, your friends, your family.
To reach out and be empathetic towards the Asian community by no means is to disregard the struggle and pain of the indigenous community, black community or any other ethnical communities. In fact, it is important to expand our engagement and interactions with the diversity of the human experience in order to grow our empathy, understanding and acceptance.
May we love one another the same way as Jesus loves us.
Dr. Qianwen (Renee) Deng
PhD. (Ed), M.A.(Hons), B.A.(Ed)