#StopAsianHate Identity Racism

10 Tips for Dealing With the Psychological Implications of Racism

In the UK, Asian hate crimes against people of East and South East Asian (ESEA) countries has risen by 300% during the pandemic compared to previous years.

However, it was already a problem before the pandemic. In the latest YouGov poll, almost three-quarters of people of East and South East Asian descent said they experienced COVID-related verbal abuse and physical assaults in 2020. Hate crimes against ESEA people are often downplayed by the police and often absent from media stories. This refusal to acknowledge hate crimes does not invite confidence in the victims adding to the trauma of the experience.

Trigger warning for sensitive content.

Did you know that according to an IPSOS MORI poll from February 2020, one in seven people in the UK intentionally avoid people of Chinese origin or appearance?

However, the ESEA communities in UK are not confined to one particular area, with over 95,000 mainly residing in inner and outer London alone and the largest Chinese community in Manchester consistsing of over 13,000 people. Moreover people of ESEA heritage are scarce in many public spheres despite the Chinese being the fourth largest minority-ethnic group (2011 Census).

The surge in hate crimes against ESEA communities inevitably has a psychological impact resulting in mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, trauma and lowering of self-confidence and self- worth. This affects not only on the victims and their loved ones but also those who witness such incidents. Fear of racism can be harmful too, undermining resilience, hope and motivation. For the women affected, issues of misogyny, gender-based violence and xenophobia further add to the trauma of racism.

Indirect racism can also have impact on psychological health. You can be affected by constant negative headlines about your community or a country you have ties with, and with little to no representation in the media, and as well as discriminatory patterns of behaviour with institutions dismissing or denying that racism exists in the first place.

This acceptance of negative comments can become unconsciously internalised over a time can affect lowering of self- worth and self-confidence.

Here are some tips on how to recognise and deal with psychological impact of racism.

An ‘Oh Oh Oh’ Feeling

It’s ok to have emotional response to racism. Try not to push away or control feelings of anger, shame, fear, and hyper vigilance.  

Attend to and accept your emotional responses with compassion and without judgement. Pushing down of emotions can lead you to feel overwhelmed, resulting in anxiety and depression.

It’s good to talk 

It’s ok to acknowledge and discuss the deep impact of racism. It is a sign of resilience not weakness. Find your tribe in terms of individuals/organisations with whom you can share freely how you feel. 

There is no shame in seeking out therapy if that is what you need. It’s empowerment.

Sharing is caring

Share your story on digital platforms. Stories can be powerful in highlighting what racism looks and feels like and in gathering support. 

Don’t let the myth of ‘model minority’ stop you calling out racism. 

If you are not comfortable talking, journaling your thoughts and feeling can also be useful way of expressing yourself. Writing/recording on phone can allow you to externalise how you think and feel, easing the burden whilst raising self- awareness. 

Cultivate self-compassion

Understand that responses to racist experience make sense. If you were to write a letter to someone you care about who has experienced racism, what would you say to them?

We are often more kinder to others than ourselves. Self- compassion pushes us to make the best of ourselves.  

Hug Me Myself I 

Affirmations spoken in front of mirror can be powerful in raising awareness of your thoughts and feelings that can come up when you say aloud:

  • “I am going through a tough time. I am giving myself a hug (place your hand on the heart) so I can go through on the other side.” 
  • “I am going to give myself kindness that I give to others.”
  • “I deserve love and kindness in this difficult time in my life.”  

I am enough

Racism can chip away at your sense of own value and worth. 

Be aware of internalised racism caused by acceptance of repeated negative messages about your own community/culture impacting on your self-worth and confidence.

Surround yourself with people who know your value and worth.

Embrace and own your achievements. Make a list of things you are most proud of and keep it as a screen saver.

Learn to distinguish between constructive feedback that can help you to move forward and negative comments about you as a person.    

Embrace your racial identity

Racial slurs and name calling can stir up your own inferiority complex which can be about your looks and/or about own your sense of belonging.

Acknowledge how you feel without judgement. 

Learn about your cultural background by talking to your parents, reading books and talking to others. 

Challenge stereotypical images about your culture that can help in educating others.

Know your values

Values can motivate us to engage with life and involves doing what matter to you. 

Values can help you to focus on who you are and what you want that can help you to choose appropriate actions in your best interest. 

It can help with feeling of being in control in the face of situations that are out on control adding to your empowerment.

Walk on by

For the sake of your psychological wellbeing, choose to walk away from conversations that involve explaining or justifying racism to others.

Use your energy wisely. It is not your responsibility to explain racism. 

Be selfish about self- care

Going through experiences of racism can take toll on your emotional and physical health. 

Exercise, spending time outdoors, nutritious food, sleep, spending time with people who nourish you, counselling can all be useful aids.

Find which activities at work best for you and use them to look after you.

You are worth it.

Want to learn more?

This article is part of our #StopAsianHate series in partnership with ASOS. Visit our hub for more info, tools, tips and ways to take a stand against Asian hate.

Written by Dr. Chandrika Patel.

Dr. Chandrika Patel is a freelance writer, playwright, meditator and traveller. Happiest when in nature and at home.