Tag Archive: asian American

  1. Empowering Asian American Voices: Sutisha Simluang

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    Sutisha Simluang (pictured above) is a first-generation college graduate, community leader, and Thai immigrant. While a native of Thailand, Sutisha was raised in Arlington, Va. after entering the United States to live with her father at the age of 12. In this blog post, she shares with Voices her own experiences growing up as an immigrant child in Virginia and as an Asian American, as well as those of her family.

    In 2005, Sutisha Simluang’s father came to work in America on a work visa with the hopes of doing agriculture work. But instead, he became a victim of human trafficking. The employers he came to work for took all of his documentation and forced him along with others to work on their farm with no pay. Fortunately, he was able to escape and get connected to refugee and human trafficking resources that assisted him with getting back on his feet.

    The programs offered to Sutisha’s father included translation services that not only helped him access services, but also Sutisha and her sibling get connected to community resources. During that time, Sutisha speedily learned English and became a translator for her family and others in her community. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 27% of children under nine in Virginia are Dual Language Leaners (DLLs), which are young children who have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home. Language barriers can deeply affect the social experience and mental health of immigrant children and their families. Sutisha recognized an urgent need to address these barriers and felt that by doing so she could shield her family from the unpleasant truths of living in America as an immigrant and person of color.

    In 2019, 1 in 4 (24%) of children in Virginia were immigrants, meaning the share of children under age 18 who are foreign-born or reside with at least one foreign-born parent. Stop AAPI Hate produced a Mental Health Report in May of this year to report on the findings from three research projects that investigated the effects of anti-Asian racism on mental health among Asian Americans. The report found that one in five Asian Americans who have experienced racism display racial trauma, the psychological and emotional harm caused by racism and those who had experienced racism during the COVID-19 pandemic were more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic itself.

    Today, Sutisha often fears for the safety of her family due to police violence and negative interactions involving racial profiling. When Asian hate crimes were exacerbated due to COVID-19, she felt she had no choice but to reveal new truths to her family. She realized that shielding them from an understanding of America’s racial landscape and systemic issues would not help her, her family, or other immigrants and children of color facing similar experiences. Because of these experiences, Sutisha pursued a career in civic engagement and change. Sutisha now works as a coordinator at the Virginia Civic Engagement Table (VCET), which connects non-profit organizations working to advance equality and justice and those that strive to engage underrepresented communities in the democratic process.

    Our Racial Truth & Reconciliation initiative serves to empower the voices of marginalized communities, such as immigrant families and Asian American youth — voices like Sutisha’s. Supporting resolutions like Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis and continuing to use both an equity and trauma lens in our advocacy and policy work is vital to addressing systemic oppressions and inequality which affect children of color as they’re growing up.

    A great first step is to support the recruitment, hiring, and retention of clinicians of color who are vital to the mental health success of children of color, especially those who have experienced racial and generational trauma in their lives.

    Several of the barriers that Sutisha and her family identified during our discussion highlights the need for advocacy and policy changes. In particular, we have identified areas in our own policy priorities at Voices where we can be stronger advocates to improve language access and reduce barriers, addressing the importance of decriminalizing racial bias, increasing culturally relevant and community-based resources and services, and bridging the gap to create culturally competent and diverse workforces.

    As champions for children, it’s our job to listen, engage, and uplift voices of our communities. You’ll continue to see more stories like Sutisha’s where we explore the lived experiences of Virginia’s children and move to take action to build healthier children, youth, and families.

    Learn more about advocacy and activism opportunities within the Racial Truth & Reconciliation Campaign.

    To connect with us and our work, please join our Voices Community for Kids.

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  2. Asian American Trauma Impacting Virginia’s Children


    There has been a 46% increase in acts of violence and discrimination of Asian Americans in the past year.

    According to data released by Stop AAPI Hate:

    • 3,800 reports of violence that ranged from stabbings, beatings, to deaths, were completed over the past year (March 19,2020-February 28th, 2021) of the pandemic for Asian Americans, which is significantly higher than the previous year’s number (2,600).
    • Of these assaults, youth up to age 17 made up over 12% of the incidents. 
    • Virginia made the list of the states with the greatest rate (11 rank at 1.29 and 49 cases).

    These numbers are powerful data points that partially quantify the scope of discrimination Asian Americans experience. These numbers only represent a small portion of the crimes that have actually occurred. There are several data challenges that point to rates much higher than we know. The Justice Department and FBI are required by a 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act to publish an annual report on hate crime statistics. This source is the most comprehensive look at hate crimes across the country; however, incomplete due to the inconsistency of required reporting of law enforcement agencies. Out of the 18,000 agencies across the US, nearly 3,000 of them did not report data in 2019. In addition to the lack of reporting, under reporting of individuals who have experienced a hate crime is also common. Those individuals may be scared of retaliation or think that it wasn’t reportable due to the type or scope of the incident.

    In addition to underreporting by both the victim and law enforcement agencies, another challenge is the way in which race groups for those of Asian race are lumped together. In a study conducted by Washington Center for Equitable Growth in 2016, there are a many as 50 different races and ethnicities that can be classified under the broad term Asian American or Pacific Islander. By lumping race groups together and not capturing all the unique races and ethnicities that the term Asian race contains, it limits a complete picture of the patterns and trends occurring, which prohibit evidence-based solutions to be implemented equitably amongst all in the Asian community.

    What we do know is trauma, like the violence experienced by Asian Americans, impacts children. According to Census data obtained by the Virginia Kids Count Data Center:

    It is unclear what projections of percentages of child poverty will be in the coming future. Federal legislation like the Family First Act and the EITC amendment, will aid families with some economic relief, but other unknown factors such as the unemployment rate and when public health restrictions are lifted prohibit a clear picture. 

    Our goal is to ensure no child or person experiences a hate crime or any type of violence. Children experiencing trauma, which can be a single event or multiple events, can having lasting impacts on the individuals physical, social, emotion, or spiritual well-being. Racism is a driving factor that impacts the social determinant of our personal and public health, family economic security, housing, food security, and education. Immediately, we are seeing impact in decisions parents are making regarding children’s immediate learning environment in places like Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, which is the largest district in Virginia.  According to  a recent presentation of the Fairfax school board regarding back to school instruction, in the spring of 2021 just over 30 percent of Asian families selected face-to-face instruction. This was the smallest return rate among any racial group in the district. While we may not have data like this is available for every school district across the state, it certainly verifies trends we are seeing in which violence and racism is visibly impacting children. A recent study of Asian American Youth found that one in 4 had been victims of racist bullying during the pandemic.

    One immediate step to address the reported rise in violence that legislators have taken includes the creation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus.  Only meeting for the first time last week on National Day of Action and Healing to Stop Asian Hate, proclaimed by Governor Northam, this group has the potential to address root causes of this trauma at the policy level. 

    At Voices for Virginia’s Children, we are home to the Racial Truth campaign that serves to empower the voice of marginalized communities working on policy topics that address the severe effects of systemic oppression and intuitional inequality.  This is why we supported the resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis, and will continue to use both an equity and trauma lenses in all policy, advocacy, and data work we prioritize.