Want To Stop Asian Hate? Start Respecting Eastern Medicine

Jessica DeFino
18 min readMar 19, 2021

I had a different newsletter ready to publish Wednesday morning. But when I read about the six Asian women who were murdered by a white supremacist domestic terrorist in an Atlanta-area shooting spree the night before — after a year of escalating anti-Asian hate crimes across the country — I decided to scrap that and attempt to address anti-Asian racism within the beauty and wellness industries instead. This is a very, very long article that I had planned to write in the future, but the conversation needs to happen now.

This is not an article about cultural appropriation.

That’s been talked about a lot lately — who gets to profit off of Traditional Chinese Medicine practices like gua sha, the ethics of “modernizing” Ayurvedic tools like dry brushes. That’s great. These talks need to be had.

But the people and platforms publishing these pieces are, for the most part, the same people and platforms that regularly dismiss, discredit, and demonize Asian culture — and addressing cultural appropriation won’t do much to help the AAPI community if the root issue isn’t addressed, too.

I’m talking about the colonizer mindset that’s embedded in the beauty industry.

The colonizer mindset is “a way of thinking, valuing, feeling, and behaving that reflects a norm of Euro-white dominance over non-white, subordinated peoples.” (It’s important to note that not all Asian countries were colonized by the West, but the “colonizer mindset” of white supremacy affects Asians in America nonetheless, sometimes through colonial mentality, or “the internalized attitude of ethnic or cultural inferiority felt by people as a result of colonization,” which has been particularly studied in Filipino and Indian communities.)

This is the mindset that glorifies Western medicine and vilifies Eastern medicine.

It’s the mindset that consistently presents Eastern healing systems as weird, “woo-woo,” and worse.

It’s the typical ~sassy~ women’s media tone; the one that raises an inquisitive (read: condescending) eyebrow at Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

It’s the implied eye roll that tells readers these ancient, sacred techniques — herbal remedies…

Jessica DeFino

Jessica DeFino is a beauty reporter covering natural, holistic, sustainable skincare. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Vogue, Allure, & more.