Treehouse CEO Issues Statement: We Must Denounce All Instances of Hate

SEATTLE – Treehouse partners with youth in foster care throughout Washington state, providing access to childhood experiences and critical resources as they plan for their futures.

“When I walk outside, I am afraid to cough.

“Ever since former President Donald Trump started referring to the COVID-19 pandemic as the ‘Kung flu’ and the ‘China virus,’ I have worried that, as an Asian American, people will see me through the lens of that xenophobic rhetoric.

“I am now scared to cough in public, because those fears are rooted in the hateful comments strangers have hurled at me in Seattle. Those words are painful. The fear of others, expressed through insults, fuels my own anxiety of walking city streets.

“My experience as a Chinese American woman is not unique. And, more and more, those racially motivated outbursts result in violence both nationwide, and in my own community.

“Recently, an 84-year-old man was pushed to the ground and killed in San Francisco. The Asian American senior citizen was attacked in broad daylight. In New York, a 52-year-old woman was pushed to the ground outside of a store in Queens – she had to get stitches in her forehead. In Oakland, a 91-year-old man landed face-first on the pavement after being shoved.

“These attacks were unprovoked. These people were just living their lives.

“Stop AAPI Hate received 2,808 nationwide personal reports of hate incidents between March and December 2020. In King County, there were 59 charged hate crimes against Asian Americans in 2020 compared to 39 in 2019. Not even three months into 2021, King County has already charged seven more cases.

“The issue is clear: Racially motivated discrimination directed at Asian Americans is on the rise and we are seeing the impact of that increase in our community. In Seattle, Asian Americans make up the city’s largest POC population. Asian American children make up 22 percent of the school population in Seattle, so an increase in violence aimed at this community has a direct impact on our youth.

“As the CEO of Treehouse, it is my goal to bring people together. And, as a Chinese American woman, I am compelled to advocate for my community. This issue strikes at the center of my personal and professional lives. AAPI youth make up about 4 percent of the youth impacted by foster care that we serve through Treehouse and, as we work to better the lives of those who experience the foster care system, it is important we stay true to our values and support those in our community who are being mistreated simply because of the way they look.

“The recent rise of xenophobia is a reminder of a painful past, a window into a time in our history when racism toward Asian Americans was rampant. When the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law it was used to excuse violence in the West, particularly in Washington. In the mid-1880s, Chinese residents in Seattle and Tacoma saw their businesses and homes burned while being forced to leave those cities.

“Japanese Americans also faced discrimination when they were forced into internment camps. In fact, the anniversary of Executive Order 9066 – which allowed Japanese Americans to be relocated to those camps – was just last month. That order led to the incarceration of more than 12,000 Washingtonians. It is an important reminder of the pain caused by those camps. It shows the fragility of our civil liberties. It is up to all of us to speak out and reject injustice and bigotry. This is the only way to preserve freedoms for everyone – especially those furthest from socio-economic, educational and racial justice.

“This spike of violence and hatred towards Asian Americans – particularly vulnerable elders – is jarring, a signal there is still so much to be done to make our country a more inclusive and just place for everyone. This includes rejecting the ‘model minority stereotype’ created by opponents during the civil rights era who wanted to derail progress toward racial justice. This false narrative perpetuates the myth that Asian Americans are more successful than other people of color, because of their hard work, education and ‘inherent law-abiding natures,’ which negates our struggles and experiences with discrimination. It also contributes to the under-reporting and under-investigation of hate crimes, discrimination and bias-based incidents.

“The pandemic has been difficult. COVID-19 has ravaged our communities – particularly the BIPOC and Latinx communities – and nation. People across the country have lost jobs and loved ones. Because of xenophobic vitriol and rhetoric in our national discourse, it has also fueled fear and stoked racial tension.

“We must call attention to this violence and denounce all instances of hate. It is time for Americans to move beyond the xenophobic rhetoric and begin lifting each other up as we celebrate everything that makes us unique.

“In addition to the slurs and violence that is on the rise in our streets, Asian American businesses are struggling more than most because, in addition to having fewer potential customers, some are boycotting these businesses due to false information about COVID-19. We can show solidarity through our patronage (to find Asian American and other BIPOC-owned businesses in your community, check out intentionalist.com). We can also support our neighbors by interrupting harassment and bigotry when we see it – because silence is also a statement.

“We must work to bring people together. Our future depends on it. We can do our part to treat each other with compassion. It is our obligation as citizens of Earth to treat each other with compassion and respect. This is a difficult moment for Asian Americans. We must not allow stereotypes and bias to further fray the fabric of our community. We value diversity, equity and inclusion and want to live in a world where we lift each other up instead of tear each other down.

“Creating a future where equity and inclusion is the expectation starts today. We must set an example for our children to create a colorful world where all people from all communities can thrive and prosper.

“One day, I will walk down the street without that fear that a cough might invite hate-filled comments. One day, my parents and other elderly Asian Americans will go on their daily walks without fear of being shoved to the ground. One day, the youth we serve at Treehouse will live in a more equitable society.”


Dr. Lisa Chin, CEO of Treehouse


About Treehouse
Founded in 1988 by social workers, Treehouse is Washington’s leading nonprofit organization addressing the academic and other essential support needs of more than 7,800 youth in foster care. We’re committed to youth in care statewide achieving a degree or other career credential, living wage job and stable housing at the same rate as their peers. With fierce optimism, we fight the structural inequities that impact all of us. Learn more at treehouseforkids.org.

Media Contact:
Desiree Lindsay
[email protected]

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