This month, I’ve been reflecting a lot about #StopAsianHate. As some of you might know, I am of Japanese descent on my mother’s side. While this certainly brings the current issues close to home, there’s also an interesting parallel with the reckoning that the physical therapy community is facing at the moment—and our response.
This last year has brought so much to the surface on so many fronts. Now it’s up to us to take a look at our values and stand up for those that matter most—in both our personal and professional lives. After all, the lines between personal and professional are blurred now more than ever.
Embodying Strength and Honor
In my experience, Asian culture emphasizes both assimilation and work ethic. It’s about internalizing challenges and overcoming them on your own. It’s about individual strength and honor—quietly fighting negative forces without ever saying anything negative.
At the same time, it is about togetherness in living out this virtue. As an individual, you don’t necessarily want to be the one to jump out of line and speak up. It’s most definitely about the “we”; not the “me.”
Speaking Out and Up
In general, within Asian culture, there are no martyrs, and there is certainly very little tolerance for complaining. But this year, the culmination of events across the country opened the floodgates for Asians in America to speak out about racism and inequality. We couldn’t stay silent anymore.
The #StopAsianHate movement has moved me deeply. It spurred me to reflect intensely about how my heritage and upbringing has impacted my life. I have taken the time to do this as a woman—and particularly as a woman in business and technology. I’ve also expressed my gratitude about my parents’ impact on my life successes, but this time it seemed more personal—more raw.
In going through this exercise, I’ve realized that many of the mechanisms I learned growing up—like pressing forward and not letting other kids’ projections of my “differentness” impact my life’s trajectory—are the same mechanisms I embraced as a physical therapist. In fact, they’re the same mechanisms the entire PT community has embraced through the years.
When other kids cried, “Eew, what smells?” as I pulled out my sunomono—a traditional vinegary cucumber salad—in the school lunchroom, I ignored them and moved on. When they put their fingers to the sides of their eyes and pulled upwards to mock my eye shape, I pretended not to notice. As PTs, when payers and other providers constantly undervalue our profession, we press forward and try to just keep focusing on serving our patients as best we can.
We haven’t really tried to make a ruckus. For the most part, we have stayed quietly in line.
Well, just as the events of this past year have inspired me to stand even stronger with the Asian-American community, they have also inspired PTs to stand up, come together, and assert their value like never before. We’ve been inspired to fight hard against reimbursement reductions—and for greater telehealth privileges. And we’ve been successful. (Speaking of which, you can continue to push for the passage of H.R. 2168 to secure permanent Medicare telehealth privileges. Learn more here.)
We’ve also made strides in committing to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within our clinics and our profession.
Our voice is getting stronger, and we have seen what is possible when we step out of line.
But why do we have to wait for these final-blow events to rock us out of our passivity? We must have our heads up all the time. We must be consistently contributing to advocacy groups like the PT-PAC and the APTQI—organizations that are on the front lines. We should be standing up for what is right always. If we did—if we harnessed our collective power like this all the time, not just in times of crisis—imagine how powerful we would be.
This is what’s possible for us as a community that works together regardless of practice size or specialty. We are all PTs.
But as it stands, only a small percentage of the PT community is active on the advocacy front. And that puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of those of us who are. Just like our fellow humans shouldn’t have to stand alone in the fight for social equity and equality, our fellow PTs shouldn’t have to stand alone in the fight for equal recognition on the healthcare stage.
Now truly is the time to stand up for what we know to be right—on all fronts. It’s the time to let your voice be heard. With this new administration, there is new emphasis on health care—in terms of how it’s being delivered as well as who it’s being delivered to. We have a chance to keep the positive momentum going and make even more of an impact if we stand up for ourselves and our profession—together.
Are you ready to let your voice be heard? Share your plan for advocacy in 2021 in the comments below. Let’s come together to make this world a better place for all.