Sitting in an unconventional classroom space in front of a panel of five diverse and dynamic community organizations provided a myriad possibilities to conduct ethical historical research and learn history often dismissed by historical oversight. FANHS and their mission instantly captivated my interest because, as an Asian American individual myself who grew up around a Filipinx community, Asian American history is important for both my self-discovery and research interests. My initial impression of FANHS was that they were an archival source that engages in higher levels of research and outreach seeing that they publish books, scholarly journals, and frequently collaborate with academic institutions. This is only part of what they do. FANHS, as I am experiencing first-hand, takes this history by diving into archives and engaging with the Filipinx American community and implements it in both the Filipinx American community and broader audiences that tremendously benefit from this work.
The project that my group is conducting in collaboration with FANHS concerns racial microaggressions and Asian Pacific Islander (API) mental health. As May is both Asian American heritage month and mental health awareness month, this presents the perfect opportunity to tackle issues that API communities severely ignore.
The focus of our first meeting with our advisor, Judy Patacsil, at Miramar College was planning events for our project and discussing microaggressions. While planning the events only required a quick 30 minutes, talking about microaggressions proved to be an issue closer to the hearts of everyone at the meeting than I would have known previously. Conversation shifted to sharing intimate experiences with microaggressions: from talking about parents and their consistent dismissal of microaggressions as ‘not racist enough to hurt’ to being misidentified, invalidated, and dismissed for being an Asian American. The meeting departed from being strictly about business to creating solidarity with one another by relating stories of our experiential reality. Often times we would experience moments of being told that “You’re pretty for an Asian,” among others, and question what happened as if it were so ridiculous to even have been real. Many times we would internalize the pain of the microaggression but not even recognize the experience as a microaggression.
These shared experiences became a moment of healing for me, something I had not known I needed, so it reinforced the notion that this project is important for the API community. It also taught me the power of stories. As this ultimately is a class concerning oral histories, personal experiences within historical narratives must be highlighted. The experiential realities of groups that have deep-rooted histories of marginalization need to be talked about and contextualized just as the experience of an eminent, often white historical figure would. Moving forward with this project, I am hopeful that by promoting discussions about API mental health people will experience a moment of healing as I have. Just because the history of API individuals points have led to Filipinx women having one of the highest rates of thoughts about suicide and depression does not mean that the trend must continue. Through this project, I hope to contribute to the improvement of API mental health and make a meaningful impact.