On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, three spas and massage parlors in Atlanta were targeted in a series of mass shootings. Eight innocent people were killed, six of which were Asian women. While the authorities and police still are hesitant to put the label of “hate crime” on this incident, it has sparked an important and invaluable conversation across the country surrounding racial tensions towards our AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community. Within a year that has seen vitriolic language and bias against the Asian community due to coronavirus hate speech and misinformation, this incident isn’t an outlier - it’s a wake up call. While there are plenty of articles out there speaking in depth about the event, we don’t want to continue to shed light on the shooter or his crime. Instead, as our hearts sit heavy with the racism our team members, clients and partners have faced, we wanted to pull together a resource that we hope can actually assist with growth and change - highlighting the positive and invoking all of us to become more aware and compassionate.
Steps we can take immediately:
Change takes a while and we understand that we all need to work together and do better to make it happen. There are things we all can start doing now within our daily lives to support the AAPI community and help us become more aware of the inherent bias in the world today.
- Listen and learn from Asian-American-focused media. Even with national mainstream media covering the racism against our AAPI community, it’s important to gather a deeper understanding of these issues, and Asian culture overall, through media that solely focuses on it. Traditional media outlets like NextShark and AsAmNews are great places to start receiving news directly from the source. If you prefer to listen to your news, check out Asian-American-created podcasts that elevate Asian voices like The May Lee Show, Self Evident and The Ken Fong podcast.
- Support Asian-American-owned businesses. Although many businesses have suffered financial hardships due to the pandemic, Asian-American-owned businesses have had the added stress of falling victim to economic discrimination. By visiting a local Asian market or business, we can shop local and learn more about Asian cultural values through food, books, clothing and more.
- Stop using racist xenophobic remarks and gestures. As a direct result of the popularized and racist “flu” terms referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the past year 31% of Asian Americans have reported being subjected to racist slurs and remarks. Some of these racist remarks and gestures can be blatantly obvious while others are subtle, but at their core, are still racist. These include creating made up words to sound like an Asian language, the forceable changing of physical characteristics to look Asian, telling an Asian-American that they speak English well or have a good American accent. The key is realizing that words matter.
Steps to take in the coming weeks:
The next step is for us to look to actions that may take us a bit more time to plan out.
- Attend educational events or webinars. Attending educational events to learn about how to best support AAPI communities is essential in creating change. These events can focus on various aspects of previous racial tensions like bystander intervention virtual trainings to learn how to best intervene when witnessing a xenophobic attack or Stop Asian Hate, a donation-based virtual event that gathers a panel of community leaders to discuss necessary policy changes needed to better protect Asian-Americans.
- Learn what the Asian-American experience is like. Before we look to our Asian-American friends or neighbors for advice, we can all do some research and try to learn more about the history behind this hate. The systemic racism and hatred spans back hundreds of years and has a domino effect on today’s society. Also, check out books by Asian-American authors about their experiences. Not only are we supporting the authors, we’re able to hear their thoughts first-hand.
- Support and listen to our AAPI community tell their stories. It is important to encourage Asian-Americans to tell their stories and to do that, we need to listen. To help further this cause, social media campaigns have been developed to give Asian-Americans a strong voice. Read through the stories under #RacismIsAVirus, a national social media campaign supporting Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), and “Wash the Hate”, a campaign sharing videos of Asian-Americans washing their hands while telling stories of how the COVID-19 virus has affected them.
What to do going forward to continuously educate ourselves:
Consistency is key. While any and all actions are valuable and necessary, the key to continued growth is for us to be self aware at all times and constantly make changes. Here are some ways we all can do that:
- Continue to have the difficult conversations. We can’t just wait until another horrific incident like this happens to have these discussions. As John C. Yang, president and executive director of AAJC states, “we also need to keep our focus even when there aren’t these videos, even when there isn’t that one single incident that brings it.”
- Donate to AAPI organizations. There are countless organizations and charities that support the Asian-American community around the clock and fight for civil rights and social justice. If you’re not sure of next steps, donating ensures that valuable funds are put into the right peoples’ hands to make change. Look at the AAPI Community Fund, Stop AAPI Hate, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), Hate Is A Virus, AAPI Women Lead and many others.
We know that hate against minority groups including Asian Americans can’t be stopped in a day. But with daily steps, recognition and a conscious effort, we can all work together to help make this country at least a bit better each day.