Many communities are seeing a disturbing wave of anti-Asian violence in recent weeks, including robberies, burglaries and assaults targeting older Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals.
The incidents come more than a year after many Asian Americans began experiencing Covid-related racism fueled by xenophobia, as well as former President Trump’s repeated use of a racist description of the coronavirus. Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, received over 2,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate between March 19 and Dec. 31, 2020.
Yet despite increasing calls for public awareness and action, many advocates say employers aren’t doing enough provide support for AAPI employees who may be impacted by the news, or to recognize their own anti-Asian discrimination within the workplace.
One reason why more people aren’t speaking up on the news, whether they’re Asian American or not, may be due to a continued erasure of AAPI discrimination in the U.S. through what’s known as the model minority myth, which holds the economic advancement of some Asian American individuals as a measure that AAPIs as a whole don’t experience racism.
“Part of the myth is that we stay quiet, we’re apolitical, that issues we’re experiencing are not valid or are not attached to our race,” Michelle Kim, CEO of the diversity training provider Awaken says. “There’s a continual investment in upholding this myth, and we need to question who benefits from it, because it’s not us or other marginalized people.”
Whether related to perceived cultural norms or otherwise, some Asian Americans may feel the need to power through the normal routines of their day despite the many challenges of living through a pandemic, and on top of increased violence targeted toward people who look like them and their families.
Non-Asian American friends and colleagues can show support by checking in with AAPI peers, showing they’re aware of the news, demonstrating care for their wellbeing and offering specific forms of help.
Asking someone an open-ended question — “how are you feeling?” or “is there anything I can do for you?” — can create an emotional burden for the recipient in their response.
Instead, 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. 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.
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