Author: Neha Shingane, ATD Greater Atlanta - VP Community Relations
ATLiens were shocked a few weeks ago when we learned that 8 people, including 6 Asian women, had been shot and killed in a mass shooting spree. The shooting came in the wake of reports of an alarming trend of rising hate crimes against Asians in America. In the weeks following the shooting, we grappled with important questions: Why is Anti-Asian sentiment increasing? How does racism against Asians differ from racism in other contexts? And maybe most importantly, we asked, “What can we do to stop tragedies like this from occurring again?”
About 4 in 10 Asian Americans said people have acted uncomfortable around them because of their race since the pandemic started, and 31% said they have been subjected to racial slurs or jokes. Pew Research Center
Asian American communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Stakeholders in the public, private, and social sectors can help spur their recovery and promote greater equity. McKinsey & Company, COVID-19 and Advancing Asian American Recovery
I thought this was an important conversation to bring to ATD Greater Atlanta because of the troubling statistics that have emerged. Not only have Asian Americans reported an increase in overall discrimination since the emergence of COVID-19, but more troublingly, the #1 site of discrimination is in a business, with more than 40% of the 3,795 incidents reported starting in a place of work.
Figure 1 Stop AAPI Hate National Report
Now, you may say, “not my workplace.” You might point to the your AAPI Heritage month, or “diversity” by mere employment as evidence of a non discriminatory environment. Unfortunately, with the pandemic raging and rhetoric about the “China Virus” and the “Kung Flu,” racism against Asian Americans in the workplace takes an insidious form that may be hard to recognize. It manifests as whispers in the hallways and mean-spirited jokes about not going into an Asian colleague’s office for fear of contamination. Stop AAPI Hate reports that shunning makes up 20.5% of total incidents reported. I am sure you can imagine what shunning in a workplace does to your career, much less your mental health and wellbeing. Add that to the already ingrained model minority myth, stereotypes about submissive Asian women, and lack of Asian representation in media leading to a “forever foreigner” identity, and you see that racism against Asians needs thoughtful, intentional, and immediate action.
“I was told to self quarantine for a week after going out of town and was the only one told to leave when others traveled as well. I am the only Asian working there. Since returning to work, my neighboring co-workers were allowed to work from home while I am in the office alone. My co-workers have been whispering amongst themselves about me and it has made me insecure and unsafe since then.”
Stop AAPI Hate, Georgia Report 3.20.20 – 10.28.20
So, what can we do to stop this behavior in its tracks? The biggest advice is to avoid performative allyship. It is not just about posting a blog post or sharing a square on Instagram. Here is a list of actions you and your organization can take to be meaningful allies for your AAPI colleagues:
#1: LISTEN TO AAPI EMPLOYEES AND LET THEM TAKE CHARGE
“What company leaders can also do is elevate the voices of AAPI workers, and really listen to them about what they would want to do, and have them lead that charge within their companies” HRDive - Corporate 'performative allyship' offers too little as anti-Asian violence rages on
Of course, making statements and stating your allyship to the AAPI community is a great goal for the short term. But the greatest impact will come in equitable recruiting, hiring and inclusion practices. By acknowledging, and then changing our practices, we can break our patterns.
#2: LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF AAPI DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA
Read this National Geographic article about America’s long history of scapegoating it’s Asian citizens. Did you know the first law to limit immigration was targeting Chinese immigrants in the 1800s? Anti-Asian discrimination is also prevalent in the modern workplace. AAPIs are overrepresented in low-wage service work, AAPI’s have the highest income inequality of any racial or ethnic group, and white-collar AAPIs are the least likely demographic to be promoted into leadership.
Another thing you can do is make an effort to understand the vast diversity represented in the AAPI community. Check out this comprehensive report by McKinsey & Company that breaks down the wide variance in the demographics and experiences of Asian Americans.
#3: REACH OUT TO COLLEAGUES, BUT DON’T ASK THEM TO EDUCATE YOU
As a compassionate human being, you may be tempted to reach out to your AAPI colleagues and ask, “How are you?” or “How are you feeling?” Unfortunately, such open-ended questions can create an emotional burden on the recipient, requiring a lot of thought and processing on their end.
Instead, use CNBC’s “Make It” article as a guide. “as a coworker, you might acknowledge that the news is distressing, and then offer to take a meeting off their plate, extend a deadline or pitch in on a project, Tran says. Let the person impacted dictate how they want to do their work, she adds, and at the same time be explicit in your offer of support based on what they need.”
Another way to empathize with your colleagues is to listen to the Asian American voices who are sharing their stories. Why Some Asian Americans Are Staying Silent About the Ongoing Hate Crimes
#4: SUPPORT EMPLOYEE MENTAL HEALTH
By ensuring that all employees have access to affordable, culturally competent mental health care, you support your colleagues that may be experiencing trauma. Here are some resources for AAPI-specific mental health that you can share. It includes lists of therapists, articles and podcasts. You can also check out this article about the nuances of mental health care in the AAPI community.
#5: GET TRAINED IN BYSTANDER INTERVENTION & CONFLICT DEESCALATION TRAINING
Do you hear things around your office, but don’t know how to respond? Take the free Bystander Intervention Course created by Hollaback! and Asians Americans Advancing Justice. They even have a part 2 Conflict De-escalation Training Workshop which dives deeper into how to directly intervene and de-escalate conflict.
I hope this article has been informative and has provided some actions you can take. If you are looking for more resources on how to advocate for the AAPI community in your workplace, check out this list of AMAZING toolkits:
I am looking forward to the discussion we have about discrimination in the workplace. If you want to talk more about this issue, connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nehashingane/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.