Healing Anti-Asian Racism – The HOPE Framework

In a media briefing on May 31, hosted by Ethnic Media Services, experts discuss innovative solutions to combatting anti-Asian hate. A new initiative led by AAPI Equity Alliance is establishing culturally centered, community-based groups to serve as healing spaces for five specific Asian American communities—Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Korean—as they navigate experiences with racism and the surge in hate crimes.

Taking inspiration from the “Radical Healing Framework” developed by Black Liberation psychologists to address the impact of racial trauma on African Americans, the pilot program, known as Healing Our People Through Engagement (HOPE), aims to leverage the cultural strengths and traditions of these communities to foster a shared understanding and collective response to persistent racism.

Local businesses, workers, and the general Asian population have witnessed a rise in anti-Asian hate since the pandemic.  A new pilot program is making significant strides in helping AAPI communities heal from rising racism in the Asian community. The Healing Our People Through Engagement (HOPE) program utilizes a “Radical Healing Framework” to aid the five largest Asian communities in Los Angeles County in responding to both past and ongoing racism.

Addressing Racism Through Healing

Funded by the California Department of Social Services and led by the AAPI Equity Alliance, an LA-based coalition of over 40 community-based AAPI organizations, the HOPE program was developed to tackle the mental health impacts of racism. During the pandemic, Asian Americans, who make up over 15% of California’s population, faced brutality on a scale not seen for generations, according to Michelle Sewrathan Wong, Managing Director of Programs for AAPI Equity Alliance. They were scapegoated for COVID-19 transmission, targeted for violent physical attacks, made to feel unwelcome, and bullied by neighbors and strangers alike.

The Radical Healing Framework, a key component of the HOPE program, was created to address the collective suffering caused by racism. “Our community was suffering an epidemic of isolation, anxiety, and depression,” said Wong. “Racism doesn’t just occur on an individual level, and healing, hoping for a different future, requires collective action.”

Dr. Anne Saw, Associate Professor of Psychology at DePaul University and one of the designers of the HOPE program, noted that decades of research show racism can harm both physical and mental health, leading to symptoms like depression, anxiety, PTSD, headaches, trouble sleeping, hypervigilance, and social withdrawal. The Radical Healing Framework emphasizes healing rather than simply coping, helping communities see how their experiences connect to historical injustices and brainstorming actions to protect their well-being.

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