Family Estrangement: Why Adults are Cutting Off Their Parents

Polarized politics and a growing awareness of how difficult relationships can impact our mental health are fueling family estrangement, say psychologists. It was a heated Skype conversation about race relations that led Scott to cut off all contact with his parents in 2019. His mother was angry he’d supported a civil rights activist on social media, he says; she said “a lot of really awful racist things”, while his seven-year-old son was in earshot.

“There was very much a parental feeling like ‘you can’t say that in front of my child, that’s not the way we’re going to raise our kids’,” explains the father-of-two, who lives in Northern Europe. Scott says the final straw came when his father tried to defend his mother’s viewpoint in an email, which included a link to a white supremacist video. He was baffled his parents could not comprehend the reality of people being victimized because of their background, especially given his own family history. “‘This is insane – you’re Jewish’, I said. ‘Many people in our family were killed in Auschwitz’.”

It wasn’t the first time Scott had experienced a clash in values with his parents. But it was the last time he chose to see or speak to them. Despite a lack of hard data, there is a growing perception among therapists, psychologists and sociologists that this kind of intentional parent-child ‘break-up’ is on the rise in western countries.

Formally known as ‘estrangement’, experts’ definitions of the concept differ slightly, but the term is broadly used for situations in which someone cuts off all communication with one or more relatives, a situation that continues for the long-term, even if those they’ve sought to split from try to re-establish a connection.

“The declaration of ‘I am done’ with a family member is a powerful and distinct phenomenon,” explains Karl Andrew Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University, US. “It is different from family feuds, from high-conflict situations and from relationships that are emotionally distant but still include contact.”

The declaration of ‘I am done’ with a family member is a powerful and distinct phenomenon – Karl Andrew Pillemer

After realizing there were few major studies of family estrangement, he carried out a nationwide survey for his 2020 book Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them. The survey showed more than one in four Americans reported being estranged from another relative. Similar research for British estrangement charity Stand Alone suggests the phenomenon affects one in five families in the UK, while academic researchers and therapists in Australia and Canada also say they’re witnessing a “silent epidemic” of family break-ups.

On social media, there’s been a boom in online support groups for adult children who’ve chosen to be estranged, including one Scott is involved in, which has thousands of members. “Our numbers in the group have been rising steadily,” he says. “I think it’s becoming more and more common.”

The fact that estrangement between parents and their adult children seems to be on the rise – or at least is increasingly discussed – seems to be down to a complex web of cultural and psychological factors. And the trend raises plenty of questions about its impact on both individuals and society.

Past experiences and present values

Although research is limited, most break-ups between a parent and a grown-up child tend to be initiated by the child, says Joshua Coleman, psychologist and author of The Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict.

One of the most common reasons for this is past or present abuse by the parent, whether emotional, verbal, physical or sexual. Divorce is another frequent influence, with consequences ranging from the adult child “taking sides”, to new people coming into the family such as step siblings or stepparents, which can fuel divisions over both “financial and emotional resources”.

Clashes in values – as experienced by Scott and his parents – are also increasingly thought to play a role. A study published in October by Coleman and the University of Wisconsin, US, showed value-based disagreements were mentioned by more than one in three mothers of estranged children. Pillemer’s recent research has also highlighted value differences as a “major factor” in estrangements, with conflicts resulting from “issues such as same sex-preference, religious differences or adopting alternative lifestyles”.

Both experts believe at least part of the context for this is increased political and cultural polarization in recent years. In the US, an Ipsos poll reported a rise in family rifts after the 2016 election, while research by academics at Stanford University in 2012 suggested a larger proportion of parents could be unhappy if their children married someone who supported a rival political party, which was far less true a decade earlier. A recent UK study found that one in 10 people had fallen out with a relative over Brexit. “These studies highlight the way that identity has become a far greater determinant of whom we choose to keep close or to let go,” says Coleman.

Family Tree

This story is part of BBC’s Family Tree series, which examines the issues and opportunities parents, children and families face today – and how they’ll shape the world tomorrow. Coverage continues on BBC Future.

Scott says he’s never discussed his voting preferences with his parents. But his decision to cut them off was partly influenced by his and his wife’s heightened awareness of social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and MeToo. He says other adult children in his online support group have fallen out due to value-based disagreements connected to the pandemic, from older parents refusing to get vaccinated to rows over conspiracy theories about the source of the virus.

The mental health factor

Experts believe our growing awareness of mental health, and how toxic or abusive family relationships can affect our wellbeing, is also impacting on estrangement.

“While there’s nothing especially modern about family conflict or a desire to feel insulated from it, conceptualizing the estrangement of a family member as an expression of personal growth, as it is commonly done today, is almost certainly new,” says Coleman. “Deciding which people to keep in or out of one’s life has become an important strategy.”

Sam, who’s in her twenties and lives in the UK, says she grew up in a volatile household where both parents were heavy drinkers. She largely stopped speaking to her parents straight after leaving home for university, and says she cut ties for good after witnessing her father verbally abusing her six-year-old cousin at a funeral.

Having therapy helped her recognize her own experiences as “more than just bad parenting” and process their psychological impact. “I came to understand that ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ were words that described my childhood. Just because I wasn’t hit didn’t mean I wasn’t harmed.”

She agrees with Coleman it’s “becoming more socially acceptable” to cut ties with family members. “Mental health is more talked about now so it’s easier to say, ‘These people are bad for my mental health’. I think, as well, people are getting more confident at drawing their own boundaries and saying ‘no’ to people.”

The rise of individualism

Coleman argues our increased focus on personal well being has happened in parallel with other wider trends, such as a shift towards a more “individualistic culture”. Many of us are much less reliant on relatives than previous generations.

“Not needing a family member for support or because you plan to inherit the family farm means that who we choose to spend time with is based more on our identities and aspirations for growth than survival or necessity,” he explains. “Today, nothing ties an adult child to a parent beyond that adult child’s desire to have that relationship.”

People are getting more confident at drawing their own boundaries and saying ‘no’ to people – Sam

Increased opportunities to live and work in different cities or even countries from our adult families can also help facilitate a parental break-up, simply by adding physical distance.

“It’s been much easier for me to move around than it would have been probably 20 years ago,” agrees Faizah, who is British with a South Asian background, and has avoided living in the same area as her family since 2014.

She says she cut ties with her parents because of “controlling” behaviours like preventing her from going to job interviews, wanting an influence on her friendships and putting pressure on her to get married straight after her studies. “They didn’t respect my boundaries,” she says. “I just want to have ownership over my own life and make my own choices.”

The impact of estrangement

There are strong positives for many estranged adult children who’ve detached themselves from what they believe are damaging parental relationships. “The research shows that the majority of adult children say it was for the best,” says Coleman.

But while improved mental health and perceived increased freedom are common outcomes of estrangement, Pillemer argues the decision can also create feelings of instability, humiliation and stress.

“The intentional, active severing of personal ties differs from other kinds of loss,” he explains. “In addition, people lose the practical benefits of being part of a family: material support, for example, and the sense of belonging to a stable group of people who know one another well.”

Feelings of loneliness and stigma seem to have been exacerbated for many estranged people during the pandemic. While the ‘Zoom boom’ enabled some families to feel closer and stay in touch more regularly, recent UK research suggests that adults with severed ties felt even more aware of missing out on family life during lockdown. Other studies point to Christmas and religious festivals being especially challenging periods for estranged relatives.

“I have my own family and my partner and my close friends, but nothing replaces those traditions you have with your parents,” agrees Faizah. Now in her thirties, she still finds the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr particularly tricky, even though she’s distanced herself from her parents’ religion. “It’s so tough. It’s so lonely… and I do miss my mum’s cooking.”

Estrangement, though difficult to navigate, may not be permanent as people can successfully reconcile (Credit: Getty Images)

Choosing not to stay in touch with parents can have a knock-on effect on future family bonds and traditions, too. “For me, the biggest regret is my kids growing up without grandparents,” says Scott . “It’s preferable to [my parents] saying – gosh, I don’t know what – to them [but] I feel like my kids are missing out.”

Of course, all of this also has an impact on the parents who have, often unwillingly, been cut out of their children’s – and potentially grandchildren’s – lives. “Most parents are made miserable by it,” says Coleman. As well as losing their own footing in the traditional family unit, they typically “describe profound feelings of loss, shame and regret”.

Scott says his mother recently tried calling him. But he texted her saying he’d only consider re-establishing contact with his children if she recognised her comments had been “horribly racist” and apologised. So far, he says she hasn’t done that. “Even if all those things happened, I would always limit what I tell them about my life and certainly supervise any visits with the kids. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of that happening.”

Attempting to bridge rifts?

With political divisions centre-stage in many nations, as well as increasing individualism in cultures around the world, many experts believe the parent-child ‘break-up’ trend will stick around.

“My prediction is that it’s either going to get worse or stay the same,” says Coleman. “Family relationships are going to be based much more on pursuing happiness and personal growth, and less on emphasising duty, obligation or responsibility.”

Pillemer argues that we shouldn’t rule out attempting to bridge rifts, however, particularly those stemming from opposing politics or values (as opposed to abusive or damaging behaviours).

“If the prior relationship was relatively close (or at least not conflictual), I think there is evidence that many family members can restore the relationship. It does involve, however, agreeing on a ‘demilitarised zone’ in which politics cannot be discussed,” he says.

It’s so tough. It’s so lonely… and I do miss my mum’s cooking – Faizah

For his book, he interviewed over 100 estranged people who had successfully reconciled, and found the process was actually framed by many as “an engine for personal growth”. “It is of course not for everyone, but for a number of people, bridging a rift, even if the relationship was imperfect, was a source of self-esteem and personal pride.”

He argues that both more detailed longitudinal studies and clinical attention are needed to get the topic of estrangement further “out of the shadows and into the clear light of open discussion”. “We need researchers to find better solutions – both for people who want to reconcile, and for help in coping with people in permanent estrangements.”

Scott welcomes the growing interest in adult break-ups. “I think it will help lots of people,” he says. “There is still a big stigma around estrangement. We see these questions in the group a lot: ‘What do you tell people?’ or ‘How do you bring it up when dating?”.

But he’s unlikely to reconcile with his own parents, unless they recognize they’ve been racist. “The whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ – I mean, that’s great if you have a cool family, but if you’re saddled with toxic people, it’s just not doable.”

Scott, Sam and Faizah are all using one name to protect their and their families’ privacy

Image

By: Maddy Savage

Source: Family estrangement: Why adults are cutting off their parents – BBC Worklife

.

More Contents:

The Gendered Experience of Family Estrangement in Later Life”Coleman, Joshua (2021-01-10).

“A Shift in American Family Values Is Fueling EstrangementAgllias, Kylie (August 2013).

“The Gendered Experience of Family Estrangement in Later Life”Span, Paula (2020-09-10).

“The Causes of Estrangement, and How Families Heal”

Young Adult Development Project

The Bowen Center

Stand Alone Charity

Together Estranged 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

Toward a Child-Centered Approach to Evaluating Claims of Alienation in High-Conflict Custody DisputesAujla, Karendeep (May 2014).

“Labelling & Intervening in Parental Alienation Cases: A Review of Canadian Court Decisions 2010-2012”Rowen, Jenna (2015).

Talking Badly About Your Co-Parent Backfires:Young Adults & Siblings Feel Less Close to Parents Who Denigrate the Other Parent”R. (September 2016).

“Recommendations for best practice in response to parental alienation: findings from a systematic review: Best practice responses to parental alienation”

They were taken from their mom to rebond with their dad. It didn’t go well”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2 August 2019.

Collective Memo of Concern to: World Health Organization about “Parental AlienationParker, Kathleen (12 May 2006).

Parental alienation gets a day

Amazon Facing Calls From Civil Rights Groups To Permanently Ban Police Use Of Facial Recognition As Deadline Approaches

Amazon

Civil rights groups are calling on Amazon to permanently ban use of its facial recognition software, as an approaching deadline looms on the future of the technology.

In an open letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and incoming CEO Andy Jassy, 44 civil rights groups pointed to ongoing instances of police violence against the Black community as evidence that Amazon should stop selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement. “As a company, Amazon has a choice to make: Will you continue to profit from selling surveillance technology to law enforcement? Or will you stand for Black lives and divest from giving law enforcement these harmful tools?” said the letter, which was published Monday.

After national protests that followed the death of George Floyd last year, Amazon followed Microsoft and IBM in stopping the sale of its facial recognition technology to law enforcement. However, unlike IBM, which abandoned its program, and Microsoft, which indefinitely suspended police use of its facial recognition until a federal law is introduced, Amazon opted to impose a one-year ban to  “give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules” to govern the use of the technology.

While some cities have imposed bans on facial recognition technology being used by police departments, the technology isn’t regulated by federal authorities. Amazon has yet to say whether it will continue its moratorium after it expires next month, or lift the ban and sell the technology to law enforcement.

“They did share that they are committed to standing with the Black community and standing for racial justice,” says Jennifer Lee, technology and liberty project manager at the ACLU in Washington State, where Amazon is headquartered. “If they’re going to do that they need to permanently divest from selling facial recognition technology and cease involvement with police and law enforcement.”

Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment. However, the Seattle-based giant is pushing against shareholder calls for more transparency around the use of its facial recognition software, called Rekognition.

Ahead of the company’s annual general meeting on May 26, one shareholder proposal is calling for an independent third-party audit on the risks linked with government use of Rekognition, citing calls of more than 70 civil rights organizations to stop selling the technology, who said it contributed to “government surveillance infrastructure.” Another shareholder proposal is calling for an independent report on how Amazon conducts due diligence on its customers, including law enforcement agencies that use Rekognition.

In a proxy memo filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon said that it has “conscientiously acted to review and address the concerns expressed in the proposal and transparently provided information regarding our actions to the public” and that it is actively engaged in policy debates around facial recognition regulation.

Amazon introduced Rekognition, a cloud-based technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify people and objects in photos and video, in 2016. But the technology became a lightning rod for civil rights groups and anti-surveillance advocates after researchers at MIT found it identified gender of certain ethnicities less accurately than similar products made by Microsoft and IBM.

(Amazon said the MIT findings were “misleading and drawing on false conclusions” and asserted that its own tests had found no such inaccuracies.) After it was revealed the company pitched the software to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, hundreds of Amazon employees sent an internal letter to CEO Jeff Bezos stating that they “refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights.”

The heightened awareness around racial equality and concerns about police surveillance are making such shareholder proposals harder to ignore for institutional investors. Glass Lewis, a proxy advisory firm, issued a report last week recommending investors vote in favor of both shareholder proposals about Rekognition, given the previous controversies linked to the software, and the fact that no federal regulations appear set to pass before the moratorium passes.

“We have to draft these proposals in a way to get them on the ballot, so we go with a softer approach,” says Brianna Harrington, shareholder Advocacy Coordinator at Harrington Investments, which is bringing the proposal calling for an audit of risks linked to government use of Rekognition. “In a perfect world they’d stop selling the technology.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a staff reporter at Forbes covering tech companies. I previously reported for The Real Deal, where I covered WeWork, real estate tech startups and commercial real estate. As a freelancer, I’ve also written for The New York Times, Associated Press and other outlets. I’m a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where I was a Toni Stabile Investigative Fellow. Before arriving in the U.S., I was a police reporter in Australia. Follow me on Twitter at @davidjeans2 and email me at djeans@forbes.com

Source: Amazon Facing Calls From Civil Rights Groups To Permanently Ban Police Use Of Facial Recognition As Deadline Approaches

.

In July 2018, the A.C.L.U. ran a study that it said matched the headshots of 28 members of Congress to mugshots of known criminals. A secondary test performed by the M.I.T. Media Lab in January 2019 and reported by The New York Times found that Recognition had a hard time identifying female faces and the faces of dark-skinned individuals. Representatives from Amazon, however, pushed back against those claims, saying both the A.C.L.U. and M.I.T. Media Lab studies didn’t use the Recognition technology properly.

The company also issued a lengthy response statement on how it uses Recognition. Lawmakers and other tech companies, though, are calling for greater oversight over the technology. The response to facial recognition Ahead of Amazon’s shareholders meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement groups, while Massachusetts currently has a bill seeking to put a moratorium on the tech in committee.

Microsoft (MSFT) President Brad Smith has said that his company rejected the sale of its own facial recognition technology to a police department out of fear that it would disproportionately impact women and minorities. Smith said that the technology had primarily been trained with white males, and, as a result, wouldn’t have been accurate. The company also denied the sale of its tech to a foreign country. Google (GOOG, GOOGL), meanwhile, has chosen not to sell its technology at all. For more on Yahoo Finance’s and Dan Howley’s coverage of this story please click: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon…

.

More Contents:

Walmart’s grocery business is losing ground to competitors ‘rapidly,’ leaked memo says

Gas prices rise slightly after ransomware attack on oil pipeline

Facebook will push you to read articles before you share them

Here’s just how much people have stopped talking about Trump on Facebook and Twitter

The biggest impact of the Gates divorce may have nothing to do with the Gates Foundation

A leaked Walmart memo highlights the daunting challenges facing the world’s largest retailer

Join the Vox Book Club!

There’s a better way to protect yourself from hackers and identity thieves

The one crucial thing missing from Biden’s climate plan

How Biden could expand paid family leave to more Americans

Buy now, pay later changed retail. Health care and rent are next

Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really.

 

Asian Americans Reflect on Race Amid COVID-19

1

Diseases and outbreaks have long been used to rationalize xenophobia: HIV was blamed on Haitian Americans, the 1918 influenza pandemic on German Americans, the swine flu in 2009 on Mexican Americans. The racist belief that Asians carry disease goes back centuries. In the 1800s, out of fear that Chinese workers were taking jobs that could be held by white workers, white labor unions argued for an immigration ban by claiming that “Chinese” disease strains were more harmful than those carried by white people.

Today, as the U.S. struggles to combat a global pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 120,000 Americans and put millions out of work, President Donald Trump, who has referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and more recently the “kung flu,” has helped normalize anti-Asian xenophobia, stoking public hysteria and racist attacks. And now, as in the past, it’s not just Chinese Americans receiving the hatred. Racist aggressors don’t distinguish between different ethnic subgroups—anyone who is Asian or perceived to be Asian at all can be a victim. Even wearing a face mask, an act associated with Asians before it was recommended in the U.S., could be enough to provoke an attack.

Since mid-March, STOP AAPI HATE, an incident-reporting center founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, has received more than 1,800 reports of pandemic-fueled harassment or violence in 45 states and Washington, D.C. “It’s not just the incidents themselves, but the inner turmoil they cause,” says Haruka Sakaguchi, a Brooklyn-based photographer who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan when she was 3 months old.

Since May, Sakaguchi has been photographing individuals in New York City who have faced this type of racist aggression. The resulting portraits, which were taken over FaceTime, have been lain atop the sites, also photographed by Sakaguchi, where the individuals were harassed or assaulted. “We are often highly, highly encouraged not to speak about these issues and try to look at the larger picture. Especially as immigrants and the children of immigrants, as long as we are able to build a livelihood of any kind, that’s considered a good existence,” says Sakaguchi, who hopes her images inspire people to at least acknowledge their experiences.

Amid the current Black Lives Matter protests, Asian Americans have been grappling with the -anti-Blackness in their own communities, how the racism they experience fits into the larger landscape and how they can be better allies for everyone.

“Cross-racial solidarity has long been woven into the fabric of resistance movements in the U.S.,” says Sakaguchi, referencing Frederick Douglass’ 1869 speech advocating for Chinese immigration and noting that the civil rights movement helped all people of color. “The current protests have further confirmed my role and responsibility here in the U.S.: not to be a ‘model minority’ aspiring to be white-adjacent on a social spectrum carefully engineered to serve the white and privileged, but to be an active member of a distinct community that emerged from the tireless resistance of people of color who came before us.”


Location: Harlem, Manhattan

Location: Harlem, Manhattan

Justin Tsui

“I didn’t think that if he shoved me into the tracks I’d have the physical energy to crawl back up,” says Tsui, a registered nurse pursuing a doctorate of nursing practice in psychiatric mental health at Columbia University. Tsui was transferring trains on his way home after picking up N95 masks when he was approached by a man on the platform.

The man asked, “You’re Chinese, right?” Tsui responded that he was Chinese American, and the man told Tsui he should go back to his country, citing the 2003 SARS outbreak as another example of “all these sicknesses” spread by “chinks.” The man kept coming closer and closer to Tsui, who was forced to step toward the edge of the platform.

“Leave him alone. Can’t you see he’s a nurse? That he’s wearing scrubs?” said a bystander, who Tsui says appeared to be Latino. After the bystander threatened to re­cord the incident and call the police, the aggressor said that he should “go back to [his] country too.”

When the train finally arrived, the aggressor sat right across from Tsui and glared at him the entire ride, mouthing, “I’m watching you.” Throughout the ride, Tsui debated whether he should get off the train to escape but feared the man would follow him without anyone else to bear witness to what might happen.

Tsui says the current anti­racism movements are important, but the U.S. has a long way to go to achieve true equality. “One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely not an overnight thing—I am skeptical that people can be suddenly woke after reading a few books off the recommended book lists,” he says.“Let’s be honest, before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, there were many more. Black people have been calling out in pain and calling for help for a very long time.”

Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Jilleen Liao

Liao was on a grocery run on April 19 when she stopped to adjust her mask. A tall older man in a Yankees cap crossed the road toward her and walked in her direction. “Next time, don’t bring your diseases back from your country,” he told her.

“He was so close I could see the lines and wrinkles on his face,” says Liao. Frightened, she waited until he was several yards away to correct him and say, “I’m American, sir. Have a nice day!” At the time, Liao was carrying four grocery bags. Now she makes multiple grocery trips a week out of fear that carrying too many bags could put her in a position where she couldn’t defend herself. She also rides her skateboard to create more distance between herself and other pedestrians.

“Scapegoating is both a timeless and universal tool, so we shouldn’t be surprised COVID-19 racism is coinciding with an election year,” she says. “Especially as marginalized people, we can’t be afraid to speak out about our experiences. I believe community building starts with relationship building—however messy or imperfect that process might look. The Black Lives Matter movement continues to show us a new world is possible.”

Location: Midtown, Manhattan

Location: Midtown, Manhattan

Abraham Choi

Choi was in a Penn Station bathroom on March 13 when a man stood behind him and started coughing and spitting on him. “I was shocked more than angry,” Choi says. “ Why would he do that?”

“You Chinese f-ck,” the man said. “All of you should die, and all of you have the Chinese virus.” Choi waited for the man to leave and then reported the situation to a police officer. “I was told that spitting wasn’t a crime, and that it wouldn’t be worth the paperwork I would have to go through to take any sort of action,” he says. Not knowing what else to do, Choi later anonymously recounted the story on Reddit, but he was hesitant to come forward in fear that his family might become the target of future attacks. Because of the shame he felt from the incident, he didn’t even share the story with his parents. But when attacks against Asian Americans kept occurring, Choi felt that he needed to speak up. “This whole thing made me into more of an introvert. I’m worried about my kid. I don’t want her to face this kind of racism,” he says. “It should just be love that we hold for one another.”

Choi says the events of recent weeks have made him more passionate about fighting racism than ever before. “I will not stand silent until everyone in the U.S. can be considered equal.”

Location: East Village, Manhattan

Location: East Village, Manhattan

Ida Chen

“Hey, Ms. Lee, I’d be into you if you didn’t carry the virus,” a man called after Chen on March 30. Chen told him off, but he turned his bike around and followed her for three blocks, shouting to her that “no one is into ‘ching chongs’ anyway” and that “this is why Asian men beat their wives.”

Afraid she would be in physical danger, Chen dialed 911 and put the phone on speaker, sharing her exact location and the details of the situation. The dispatcher said that they would send someone to look for the man, who disappeared, but she was never contacted again.

728x90

Since then, Chen has been doing everything she can to avoid similar situations. “The other day, I walked 40 blocks to avoid taking the bus or the subway. I’d rather be out in the open where I can run away if I have to,” she says. “I wear big sunglasses, and my hair is ombré blond, so I wear a hat to cover the black hair so you can only see the blond.”

In recent weeks, Chen says older family members have told her not to involve herself in “Black-white battles.” But, she explains, “In my opinion, oppression of one minority group results in oppression of all minority groups eventually.”

Location: Astoria, Queens

Location: Astoria, Queens

Rej Joo

Joo was on his way to the post office when a Latino man wearing a cap labeled PUERTO RICO mumbled, “Chinese,” at him. Joo turned around, and the man continued: “I was gonna see if you were Chinese. I was gonna put on my mask if you were Chinese.”

“First of all, I’m not Chinese,” Joo responded. “Second, you should wear a mask anyway. Do you understand how ignorant you sound? You’re a man of color, and it’s gotta be hard for you during this time. Why do you want to cause other people stress too?”

The man said he was sorry, that it was his mistake. Joo attributes being able to get an apology to his work as a program manager at the Center for Anti-Violence Education.“We’ve been helping people come up with strategies to intervene when they witness or experience hate-based violence or harassment,” says Joo.

Joo says it wasn’t the first time he’d heard racist comments from other men of color. “When you’re lashing out at each other, you don’t see the big picture,” he explains. Still, he hasn’t thought much about the incident lately. “The increased level of attention given to anti-Blackness is a must and a critical part of working toward eradicating racism overall,” he says.

Location: Flatbush, Brooklyn

Location: Flatbush, Brooklyn

Haruka Sakaguchi

Before Sakaguchi started this photo project, she was waiting in line to enter a grocery store on March 21 when a man came up behind her, hovering and making her feel uncomfortable. She politely asked him for some space, to which he responded, “What’d you say to me, chink?” He then proceeded to cut in front of her.

“Before the Black Lives Matter protests, I had contextualized my incident as an act of aggression by a single individual—a ‘bad apple,’ so to speak,” she says. “But after witnessing the unfolding of the anti­racism movements and encountering heated debates between police abolitionists and those who cling to the ‘few bad apples’ theory, I came to realize that I too had internalized the ‘bad apple’ narrative. I gave my aggressor—an elderly white man—the benefit of the doubt.

“As an immigrant, I have been so thoroughly conditioned to think that white Americans are individuals that I wrote him into an imagined narrative in a protagonist role, even while he had so vehemently denied me of my own individuality by calling me a ‘chink.’ The protests have brought public attention to the idea that individuality is a luxury afforded to a privileged class, no matter how reckless their behavior or how consequential their actions.”

Location: Financial District, Manhattan

Location: Financial District, Manhattan

Jay Koo

“I wondered if I should’ve given my girlfriend an extra kiss before I left that night, if I should’ve spent more time with my brother,” says Koo, who was followed by two men after dropping off his brother at the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital on March 24. The men called him racial slurs and yelled, “You got the virus. We have to kill you.” Wanting to appear strong and confident, he turned around and moved his book bag in front in case he needed to defend himself. “Unfortunately, Asians are often targeted for violent attacks because Asians are stereotyped as weak and non­confrontational,” he says. He escaped by fake-coughing and saying, “I just got back from the ER. You want this virus?”

Friends and family have asked him the races of the men who confronted him, but he says it doesn’t matter. “The men acted out of reflex in quoting President Donald Trump and stated that I have the ‘Chinese virus,’ which propped up the Chinese as the scapegoat.”

Koo turned to history to process the incident. “I was reminded that the recent attacks against Asian-American communities due to COVID and the murder of George Floyd are connected and rooted in racist histories,” he says. “We can never truly be free unless we are all free, or as Dr. King states, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

Location: Brooklyn

Location: Brooklyn

Hannah Hwang

“I don’t want to speak to you. You’re Chinese. Please get me somebody else to work with,” a customer told Hwang, an essential employee at a bank. The social-distancing measures put in place, including a window by the entrance so customers don’t have to step fully inside, have at times magnified the racism she has faced. “I’ve felt like a zoo animal, having glass separating us while they’re pointing and yelling at me,” says Hwang, who asked that her exact location not be shown because of privacy concerns.

As the wave of Black Lives Matter protests began, she initially felt guilty about focusing on what she had personally endured. “I can handle racially charged slurs thrown at me. Yet that only led me to acknowledge that my experience is not in any way less valid,” she says. “Instead, I pivoted my mentality in acknowledging my privilege and recognizing the critical role Asian Americans play in standing in solidarity with the Black community.”

Location: Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn

Location: Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn

Eugenie Grey

Grey was out walking her dog on March 17 when she was body-slammed by a stranger. The aggressor also kicked Grey’s dog, which howled in pain. In the moments before the attack, Grey was bent over, picking up her dog’s waste, and her hood fell over her head. She couldn’t see the stranger approaching and was already in a vulnerable position.

Grey was the only one on the block wearing a mask at the time, and her eyes were visible above it—“That’s probably what immediately identified me as Asian to them,” she says. Later, she shared the incident on Instagram, using her platform to spark conversation and bring awareness to the issue. “In my last post about the racism I’ve experienced during this virus hysteria, I expressed gratitude that at least I wasn’t assaulted. I guess I can’t claim that anymore,” wrote Grey, who urged her nearly 400,000 followers to “take the time to be extra empathetic and kind to strangers to hopefully make up for their treatment from the rest of the world.”

“As horrifying, triggering and deplorable as what happened to me was, it was the one and only time I actually felt like there could be bodily harm inflicted on me,” she says. “Some people live in fear of that all the time.”

Location: West Village, Manhattan

Location: West Village, Manhattan

Douglas Kim

In early April, Kim opened an Instagram direct message from a concerned customer. It was an image of his West Village restaurant, Jeju Noodle Bar, the first noodle restaurant in the U.S. to achieve Michelin-star status. The words “Stop eating dogs” were scrawled in Sharpie across the eatery’s windowpane. Disheartened, Kim went in the next day and scrubbed it off.

Even before then, Jeju Noodle Bar was closed not just for dine-in customers, but also for takeout and delivery because of concern for employee safety. “Our employees were scared,” says Kim. “They were worried about using public transportation, not because they were scared of getting the virus but because they were getting awful looks from strangers and hearing the other stories.”

Kim says there’s a common thread between what happened at his restaurant and the incidents of police brutality around the U.S. that have led to ongoing protests and calls for change.“When you look at the larger picture, it all comes from one thing: racism,” he says. “As human beings, we should all be united. We should be all together. It’s good that we are trying to get together and fix things. Asian people coming together with Black Lives Matter protests.”

By Anna Purna Kambhampaty | Photographs by Haruka Sakaguchi for TIME

Source: http://www.time.com

GM-980x120-BIT-ENG-Banner

Asian American leaders have been hearing about the racial incidents, if not experiencing themselves. Now they are putting political leaders on notice to do something about it.
%d bloggers like this: