What API ERGs can do in the wake of anti-API violence

Authors’ Note:
This was written by a group of Asian Americans who are deeply invested in diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and our community. We acknowledge that we cannot adequately represent the full diversity of the API community, as well as the complexity of calling attention to the Asian American community during Black History Month. Yet systems of inequity and oppression exist at all times, and the institutionalization of white supremacy is deeply harmful to all people of color. We hope this article can be a resource for API ERG leaders looking to support their employees during this difficult time.

Authors: Melanie Lei, Joyce Chiao, Geeranan Chuersanga, Elaine Dang, Richard Leong, Amie Ninh

A Rise in Anti-Asian Hate:

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hate incidents against Asian Americans have been on the rise. In the last year, Stop AAPI Hate recorded 2800+ hate incidents against Asian Americans nationwide, including events of physical assault, barring Asians from establishments, and verbal harassment.

In the last week there have been at least three unprovoked attacks on elderly Asian Americans in the Bay Area: an 84-year-old Thai grandfather, Vicha Ratanapakdee, was brutally shoved and killed during a morning walk in San Francisco; a 64-year-old Vietnamese grandmother was assaulted in San Jose and robbed of $1,000 that she had withdrawn for Lunar New Year; a 61-year old Filipino American, Noel Quintana, was slashed in the face with a box cutter while riding the subway in New York.

These events are traumatizing for the API community, especially on the eve of the joyful celebration of Lunar New Year for many of us. It’s crucial that API employee resource groups (ERGs) take immediate steps to support their members in navigating the trauma while also recognizing these attacks have always been a horrifying part of the Asian American experience that are being made more widespread by COVID-19.

What to do and say next:

First, ERG leaders need to acknowledge and respond to the situation clearly and directly. Speaking vaguely or in colorblind terms (e.g. “recent events in the country ”) do more harm than good. You may not have all the answers or all the resources prepared, but it is important to show your API employees that they are cared for and valued. Call out white supremacy, racism, and violence directly and thoughtfully. Consider holding a group call to share experiences, reactions and reflections, but keep in mind that not all employees will be ready to participate.

Not all API employees will be navigating the pain of these attacks in the same way. Actively resist the monolithing of our community. Your ERG members will relate differently to these attacks. Creating space for these complexities, while centering those most closely impacted right now, is crucial. As an ERG lead, acknowledge this dynamic and provide members with ways to balance sharing, discussing, and educating. If you have members across the globe, education and context may be needed for employees who are less familiar with U.S. news and history.

Continue the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion by encouraging idea sharing around tangible action steps and how to promote an inclusive work environment. The same invisibilization that causes anti-API hate crimes to be underreported also manifests in API employees feeling a lack of belonging or access to opportunity in the workplace.

Advocating within your company:

API ERGs have a responsibility to elevate and escalate the needs of their members to executive sponsors and leaders across the organization. Encourage company leaders to condemn the violence and express solidarity to all staff through a company forum or public communication, not just privately to API employees. Knowing that this can evoke strong feelings, resources to support employees’ mental health should also be made accessible, as the stress of the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact communities of color and those working in essential industries and frontline healthcare. Add local, on-the-ground organizations to your corporate donation programs and share them widely, especially if your company does donation matching.

Most importantly: educate your members about the importance of building solidarity with other communities of color, particularly Black colleagues. We are able to fight against anti-Asian violence and simultaneously be accomplices in Black liberation. Connect with your organization’s Black and other POC ERGs to build solidarity and ensure that you all stay united in the face of white supremacy. If you’re publishing a statement or hosting an event, give other ERG leaders a heads-up and ask for their feedback. Unfortunately, there are API individuals and high-profile celebrities that are making anti-Black statements or calling for increased policing as a form of justice because some of the perpetrators of violence happen to be Black. Acknowledge these statements as being painful and denounce them — they are not the answer to keeping us safe. Hold one another accountable in your ERG for language, actions and beliefs that perpetuate anti-Blackness.

Follow the leadership of local leaders and grassroots community-based organizations because they are the ones most directly impacted by these systems, and are therefore most knowledgeable about the path forward. Many API organizations are rejecting this system of being pit against other communities. In Oakland Chinatown, API groups are working in solidarity with the Black community to find solutions. You can engage with them in many ways: amplifying their messages, supporting them with pro-bono work or financial contributions, or bringing them in as speakers to educate your ERG and company:

Oakland Chinatown Coalition
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinatown Community Development Center
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Community Youth Center (CYC)
Southeast Asian Development Center
Aypal: Building API Community Power
East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
Chinese Progressive Association

Actions to share with your organization:

Feel free to take this list, add your own action items, and share with not just your API ERG but your entire company. If you’d like to share just one link, this is a great summary: https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/

Hold emotional space and compassion for your colleagues, especially people of color whose communities are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Resources:

This article represents the views of its individual authors, and not the organizations and employers they are affiliated with.