We’ve been down this road before when a hashtag is used to not only capture a moment in time but to unify around a cause with purpose and resolve. The recent and persistent vilification of Asians, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, has served to foment hate and result in harm to our families, friends and colleagues who are living through an unprecedented time.
The truth is that this country can often be exhausting in its tribalism, but we cannot give in to the inclination to compartmentalize universal truths. Nor can we forget our history. It has been a mere 79 years since the Japanese were interred in camps in the U.S., and 140 years since the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. And all this while we continue to grapple with the vestiges of over 400 years of chattel slavery.
The dichotomy of seeing the box office and critical success of feature films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Minari,” which recently lauded Korean Steven Yeun, the first Asian actor to be in contention for an Oscar, in contrast to the murders in Atlanta is mind-boggling. Yet it is about more than representational politics. It’s also about confronting systemic racial inequity while building solidarity.
Hate against any one group is hate against all groups and deserves our condemnation. As business leaders and thought leaders in one of the most influential industries on the planet, it is incumbent on us to apply the lens of racial equity to every aspect of our business. Garyan Wong, Program Operations Manager at Salesforce, recently wrote an article in the company’s, The 360 Blog, outlining actions to take and how best to support the Asian community. We believed this call to action is worth repeating:
1. OPENLY DISCUSS ANTI-ASIAN BIAS
At work, create safe spaces where employees can share how bias, and racism affects them and invite allies to learn firsthand what support is needed now.
2. OFFER SUPPORT FOR YOUR ASIAN COLLEAGUES
Reach out to your Asian Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to learn how you can get involved. Offer mental well-being benefits to your employees such as access to therapists and mindfulness tools.
3. UNDERSTAND INTERSECTIONALITY AND PROMOTE INTER-COMMUNITY DIALOGUE
The Asian community is not a monolith. Learn how the communities are different geographically, ethnically and culturally and respect the intersectionality and cultural nuances among those communities.
4. BE AN “ACTIVE ALLY”
Learn how to be an active ally. Recognize your privilege, practice empathetic listening, and seek to understand through learning. For a historical overview on anti-Asian racism in America learn about America’s long history of scapegoating its Asian citizens. Recommended reading includes “Chinese in America” by Iris Chang and watch the PBS documentary “Asian Americans.”
5. EMPOWER, AMPLIFY, AND UPLIFT MINORITY VOICES IN THE WORKPLACE
Actively look for ways to elevate and uplift minority voices and support career growth, avoiding the “bamboo ceiling”— an invisible barrier to advancement akin to the ‘glass ceiling’ that women face. Reevaluate how you hand out assignments, revise your promotion processes to ensure fairness and equity for all, and work to check your bias on an ongoing basis.
6. GIVE BACK
As a company, consider organizing volunteer activities for your employees and matching your employees’ donations to worthy nonprofits that align with your own values. At the end of the day, we all can play a vital role in stopping the spread of anti-Asian violence. Supremacy and xenophobia must be named and condemned. We must do everything in our power to make them vestiges of a bygone era to which we only refer to in history books.
In the words of the late civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis, who said it best, “ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year… ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”
Let’s do our part!