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Fighting COVID-19 Anti-Asian Racism with Research

In the midst of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, the cataclysmic changes we’re all experiencing are taking its toll. People are scared, stressed, mourning, and hurting. Asian Americans, in particular, have been on the receiving end of racist hate crimes and discrimination as a result of COVID-19. 

The research group Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council tracked more than 1500 reported incidents of racism against Asians in the U.S over a four week period. Asian Americans are reporting being verbally harassed, getting spit or coughed on, physically assaulted, stabbed, and even attacked with acid. 

It’s possible you or someone you know have similar experiences. Or maybe you’re afraid an incident like this could happen to someone in your family or community. These acts of racism are appalling, traumatic, and unfortunately—likely to continue. For this reason, our team of researchers urgently designed a study to capture this unique time in our history. With your help, we can investigate the ways in which racist attitudes develop, and study its effects on Asian American mental health. 

Who are we? 

Our research team is led by Dr. Chuck Liu, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist currently at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Dr. Liu specializes in Asian American mental health. Other core and consulting research team members are psychologists and researchers from various other institutions. They include Dr. Tao Liu, PhD (no relation to Dr. Chuck Liu), Jeanie Chang, MA, Ruth Fu, MA, and a great team of graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

What will the study look at?

Our study has two broad goals: First, we want to establish that Asian Americans are, in fact, directly and indirectly impacted by racism as a result of COVID-19. We want to investigate how racism affects depression and anxiety over time in this community. How we understand the impact of COVID-19-related racism will directly inform how we can then best address Asian American mental health needs. 

But, we don’t want to stop there. In a way that’s never been done before, we want to also explore where that racism is coming from. By looking at non-Asians as well, we can understand how events like COVID-19 contribute to the growth of discrimination. Is there some point at which we can intervene to prevent racist attitudes and scapegoating from developing in the future?  

Why now? What’s the rush? 

From a scientific perspective, there has never been an opportunity to investigate the cause of racism, the racism itself, *and* the impact of racism, in one massive event. It’s completely unprecedented and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to study these connections in the midst of a national public health crisis. As we all now know, COVID-19 moves fast. We need to start obtaining data immediately to track the impact of the virus’s trajectory on people’s biases and Asian American mental health. 

Why support this research?

Our study is ready to launch. With your support, we can begin recruiting participants immediately. 

While Asian Americans are experiencing racism and xenophobia now, racism isn’t new. This has happened before, and it will happen again unless we continue to resist it. At the end of the day, this is our chance to say that discrimination is wrong, that this is not the society we want for ourselves, our elders, or our children, no matter our race or ethnicity. 

The reality is that COVID-19-related funding from traditional funding agencies like NSF (National Science Foundation), NIH (National Institute of Health), and private funders is overwhelmingly geared towards studying the biological aspects of the virus or physical health (we tried!). Additionally, typical funding and application cycles can take more than 6 months. Universities are also under significant financial crisis due to COVID-19 and are unable to provide funding for such research. Given the speed at which the virus spreads and the biological emphasis of current funding agencies, there is a gap in studying racism and the important consequences of the virus’s impact on mental health. 

What will you do with the results?

Our survey contains measures that are specifically designed to document the type, frequency, and psychological and social impacts of COVID-19 related racism. The results can assist Asian American organizations, community leaders, and public policymakers better respond to the impact of racism.  

We plan to begin analyzing data, summarizing and seeking academic publication as soon as we complete the first wave of data collection. A number of psychology journals have already called for submissions related to COVID-19 research and our results may be published as early as this Fall 2020.

Is this study approved?

Yes, every step of the study is approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB.) The IRB monitors the safety of all research protocols, making sure no harm is done to any of the participants. In this case, due to the survey nature of this study, there is little to no risk for the participants. 





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