Anti-Asian hate victims seek therapy, art to heal

TRACY PARK: "I never used to walk around with pepper spray or any kind of self-defense mechanism of any kind."

That all changed last year for Los Angeles resident Tracy Park after tensions over the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic took an ugly and personal turn.

TRACY PARK: "In February of 2020, I was playing here with my children and as we were about to head out of the park, we passed by a few young men and one of the men told me, 'that's right, get those coronavirus babies the F out of this park.' And we were already on our way out, so I didn't stop and try to address them. I just kept walking out. But I was really, really shocked at what he had said and I was afraid for my children.”

According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, crimes against Asian Americans rose 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities.

Brutal attacks caught on video jarred the nation and brought attention to the issue.

Now victims are turning to mental health counselors and support groups for help, with therapists reporting months-long waiting lists.

But trauma caused by racist attacks or racism doesn't have a formal mental health diagnosis.

So to help their clients, many mental health counselors are drawing on the still-developing field pioneered by African-American clinicians focused on dealing specifically with racial and generational trauma.

Dr. Steven Kniffley Jr. is a licensed psychologist who runs a 12-week program in Louisville, Kentucky.

DR. STEVEN KNIFFLEY JR.: "So the reason why it's so helpful for us to have these conversations and to focus specifically on racial trauma is because we can increase life expectancy for black and brown individuals. We can increase academic achievement. We can reduce the number of black and brown folks that are involved in the criminal justice system.”

As for Park, she started to feel depressed and had trouble sleeping after the incident. Her 65-year-old mother was also threatened by another white man.

Instead of turning toward her former white therapist who Park felt lacked the necessary understanding. She found solace among a group of mothers who had also experienced anti-Asian hate and held online "unpacking sessions."

She also wrote a comic to express her anger and other emotions to help herself, but also to help people of color who experienced similar feelings.

TRACY PARK: "It's the responsibility of everyone in this country to dismantle white supremacy and to make sure that every person in this country feels safe and can raise their children to also feel safe.”