Combat anti-Asian hate with education
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, typically marked by festive events and keynotes. This year, however, many of us in the AAPI community are facing harsh reminders about painful experiences and the ongoing need for attention and action to combat ignorance.
We are witnessing a spike of anti-Asian violence across the country, from a brutal attack on two women in a Baltimore store to the Atlanta spa shootings. Over the past year, national nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate documented 6,603 hate incidents.
Locally, many of us also experienced outrage, fear and despair when four Asian American restaurants in Columbia were burglarized and vandalized on Feb. 11, and when blatant racist comments were made against immigrants during a Howard County Racial Equity Task Force hearing.
America is known for its opportunities. Like many Asian Americans who immigrated to the U.S., I was drawn to the “American Dream” and am incredibly grateful to have been able to pursue my passions and hold a meaningful career in improving health equity.
Yet, this dream is tarnished or shattered for many AAPIs. The sad truth is that violent attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. Racism, xenophobia and discrimination are widely felt among AAPI communities. Even as a social scientist with two doctorates from American universities, I have faced ignorance, stereotypes and assumptions. I have been yelled at to “Go back to China” while walking on the street. My American children have been asked where they are “really” from. My friends’ children have been called the “China virus.” These make me feel alienated as a perpetual foreigner in a country I have called my own for 22 years.
Xenophobia and racism are fueled by rampant ignorance of AAPIs as an integral part of American society, and ignorance is the soil in which hate grows. We have to combat hate by changing the dominant narrative. AAPIs have been on this land for more than 400 years. AAPIs are the nation’s fastest-growing population. AAPIs are also economically diverse, ranging from high income to abject poverty. Acknowledging and understanding our suffering and struggles — and our achievements and contributions — is the true meaning of AAPI Heritage Month.
Anti-Asian hate is not confined to isolated incidents by a few individuals; it is widespread, systemic and connected to historic racism against AAPIs. Policy solutions are needed to prevent and address the roots of racist violence. One place to start is public education. As a member of Howard County Chinese School and Howard County Equity Collaborative, I have been working with community partners to advocate for incorporating AAPI experiences and perspectives into the curricula of K-12 public schools. School boards and state legislators must take concrete actions to make this a reality because AAPI history is American history, and the AAPI story is the American story.
This month is not only for those of AAPI descent. For everyone, this is a chance to learn AAPI history and reflect upon what it means for racial equity. I invite you to celebrate by reconnecting with an AAPI friend, colleague or neighbor; studying a historical event such as the roles AAPIs played in fighting for school desegregation; or reaching out to thank one of the two million AAPI community members serving on the front lines of the pandemic as health care providers, first responders and other essential workers.
The word “crisis” in Chinese is comprised of two characters — one representing danger and the other opportunity. I hope our nation will seize this opportunity to make the dream of equity come true.
Support acts to help those with dementia
Earlier this month, I joined thousands of people from across the country for the virtual Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Advocacy Forum. We met with House and Senate members to ask for the support of four legislative acts that will help the more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
This mission is personal for me, having witnessed the emotional, physical and financial toll of Alzheimer’s disease on my father, aunt and cousin. Medical research is key to finding a cure, and having under-served communities participate in medical trials is essential.
Equity in Neuroscience and Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials Act aims to increase diversity in clinical trials and study staff, reduce the burden of study participants, and improve health outcomes for people of color through new treatments. The Comprehensive Care for Alzheimer’s Act requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to implement a dementia care management model. This will test the effectiveness of comprehensive care management services and benefit rural, medically under-served and diverse communities.
A $289 million increase for Alzheimer’s research activities at the National Institutes of Health and $20 million to implement the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act will bring us closer to finding a cure. BOLD creates a national Alzheimer’s public health infrastructure for interventions that include increasing early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.
About 238,000 Marylanders are providing 364 million hours of unpaid care valued at $6.56 billion, who will benefit from the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act. It will provide grants to organizations to expand training and support services for families and unpaid caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume are thanked for their support of these acts.
As a minister at an African American church, I support the spiritual and physical needs of the congregation that includes families grappling with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Serving as an Alzheimer’s ambassador and advocate allows me to combine both passions.
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The Rev. Dr. Barbara Morton
The writer is a minister at First Baptist Church of Guilford in Columbia.
Kudos to Howard County for plastic bag fee
What did it take to change my behavior? A nickel. Saving the planet 5 cents at a time.
Would you bend down to pick up a nickel on the ground? I don’t think I would. And yet when I’m in the checkout lane of the grocery store and I’m asked how many store bags I used (at 5 cents each), I will juggle armfuls of groceries just to be able to proudly say no to those evil plastic bags. I’ve even been known to buy $1 reusable bags rather than spend 5 cents on the store bag.
Kudos to Howard County. You changed my behavior in a way that all of the environmental education and pledges to love the Earth could not do. Saving the world 5 cents at a time.