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'You're Not Alone.' President Of Florida's Asian American Journalists Association Chapter Discusses Anti-Asian Racism

Valarie Boey is a veteran journalist and president of the Asian American Journalists Association - Florida chapter.
Valarie Boey
Valarie Boey is a veteran journalist and president of the Asian American Journalists Association - Florida chapter.

“Silence is violence, we are not a virus” chants were heard across the country, as thousands of people in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and their allies, joined protests this past weekend.

The solidarity rallies called for an end to anti-Asian racism and violent attacks.

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And in the wake of the deadly shooting in Atlanta, Asian journalists addressed how the media should cover the AAPI community. Months before the Atlanta shooting where eight people were killed, including six Asian women, or the recent physical assaultin New York City, Asian journalists expressed their own grievances and raised several concerns about the national coverage.

Valerie Boey is president of the Florida chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.

"[The] Asian American Journalists Association, also known as AAJA, recommended that journalists use terms such as spas or say the name of the businesses instead of referring to these businesses as massage parlors because we felt that it would stereotype the victims,” she said.

AAJA “wanted accurate stories told with the facts.”

“And that's why AAJA provided guidance [to] newsrooms with a list of experts which included college professors who studied hate crimes against people in the Asian American Pacific Islander community,” Boey said.

AAJA released a guide on how to report on Asian-related stories to avoid amplifying negative stereotypes surrounding prostitution or historical media narratives that have fetishized Asian women.

Shining The Light On 'Real People'

Boey said she’d like to see more stories that humanize the lived experiences of the victims.

"I want to hear about, you know, 'who was this person? Was this person a grandfather? Was this person a loving daughter?' I just don't want to hear that six Asian-American women were shot to death. So you've got to remember, these are real people with families who love them," she said.

Boey shared an anecdote about an Asian-American woman who, after coughing in a line at a pharmacy, was frightened by a male stranger who yelled at her, saying “you're the reason why we're having to deal with this pandemic."

“The worst part of it was that the other people on the line saw what was going on and they never stepped up to help or ask her if she was OK. And so that was very upsetting to her. And it's upsetting to hear stories like that," Boey said.

Despite those kinds of incidents, there is a narrative shift happening as a result of the recent demonstrations, one that may increase attention toward the AAPI communities in regions with less representation.

Boey said she hopes that shift will lead to more “positive stories” that reflect the AAPI experience — aside from Asian American Heritage Month.

Many national stories center on larger cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, or New York — places with much larger Asian populations — and Boey says Florida's relatively small Asian population, which makes up just 3% of the state's population, is a contributing factor because “it's harder to compete with the larger population.”

"So, sometimes it's challenging to try and convince editors, "Hey, you know, this is a really interesting story. Why don't we go? You know, why don't we do this?" Boey said.

'A Brighter Future Ahead'

Something "awesome" that Boey says did come from recent events, is seeing young Asian Americans speaking out and using social media to share their socio-political views more openly than previous generations.

“I will say, I'm so impressed with the younger generation and how they are able to speak out and really express their feelings. I think with the older generation, we're told not to really say anything,” Boey said. “And so I just think there is a brighter future ahead with the younger generation and how they work on social media and express themselves."

Moving forward, Boey shared some personal advice, and tips from AAJA, as Asian-American journalists continue to reckon with the national conversation and the uptick in anti-Asian racism and protests.

Boey says AAJA has provided emotional support services and resources and “they're also giving out advice on how to talk to newsrooms or your colleagues to better understand what's happening."

For self care, I talk to my husband. I talked to my friends. I talked to my mom. A lot of the support comes from each other to share feelings and talk about what we're going through. And really just to know that you're not alone is so important when you're going through this," she said.

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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