In the past weeks, we have witnessed the tragic murders of innocent people in Atlanta, most of whom were Asian women. Sadly, this attack comes amidst an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans over the past year.
Combined with the extreme challenges of the pandemic over the last year, which has impacted all of us, for many women of color, the experience of racism and being targeted for how we look or where we’re perceived to be from, intertwined with sexism, contributes to chronic stress. In addition, systemic racism can have a detrimental effect on many AAPI women based on our immigration status, language barriers, access to health insurance and more. All of this has a detrimental effect on our wellbeing and, in particular, our mental and cardiovascular health.
On a personal note, as an Asian American woman, the alarming news and evidence of Asian people – especially elderly women and men – being victimized has tapped into my own fear of being treated differently or being abused for the way I look. Most of the time, I quickly bury experiences of racism and xenophobia to spend the least possible energy processing someone else’s misguided notions of who they think I am. However, at other times – and more frequently throughout this pandemic – I have felt the urge to speak, often to scream, in order to claim my full humanity, so as to not succumb to the inherent dehumanization of racism and stereotypes. In the last year, the chronicity of this mental calculus has taken a toll on my own heart health. And like so many others, this has led to experiences of physicians discounting my symptoms, further compounding my distress.
The good news is that there are things we can do together to strengthen our community and to support one another. Here are concrete steps that WomenHeart will take:
- We will restate our values as an organization and as a community, often and with specific emphasis on equality and inclusivity.
- We will advocate for better health data on Asian Americans broken down by subgroups, recognizing that Asian Americans are a diverse community arbitrarily grouped together as a political categorization. Whether the data is related to COVID-19, heart disease or other health metrics, we need to understand how health disparities manifest in specific communities so we can target interventions as we strive for health equity for all.
- We will strive to reach more women across different Asian American communities with messages about heart disease and support services that resonate, that are nuanced for various groups of women and that meet their needs and are compatible with the unique cultural preferences within different communities.
- We will invite difficult conversations in service of a greater understanding for the trials and tribulations we each face. In doing so, we will relieve each other of these burdens born from systemic flaws and injustices afflicted on specific, vulnerable groups in our society.
A rising tide lifts all boats: WomenHeart recommits itself to being a rising tide in the groundswell of community builders to enable true dialogue and greater understanding to stamp out the scourge of hate and division. We invite you to join us in this effort to cultivate a community of equality, equity and wellbeing.