In the wake of the murders of Asian women, we as leaders have agency and leverage to stop hate.
“How are you doing lately, Claire?”
I’ve been asked this over calls and in meetings over the past 13 days.
Quite honestly, I have not been doing well.
In the wake of the murders of Asian women on March 16th, I’ve been reliving every racist experience I’ve had in my 32 years of life as an Asian woman.
The hyper-sexualization and fetishization of Asian women have been ever-present in my life as an Asian woman – and ever-present in our American history for as long as Asians first immigrated to this country more than a century ago. It has dehumanized me and so many other countless Asian women, to this day in 2021.
It is not harmless – it is racist oppression. Most tragically and disgustingly, it led to the targeted murders of Asian women last week in Atlanta, the city where I was born. When the killer told the police he had a “sexual addiction” and carried out the murders to eliminate “a temptation,” he was referencing a stereotype that dehumanizes and fetishizes Asian women. He wanted to eliminate people who look like me.
When will it stop?
Hate stops when we choose to stop it.
Together, as a community, we can take small actions and speak up toward family members, toward our colleagues. We can bring awareness to the anti-Asian hate that exists and root it out.
As leaders, we have agency and leverage to stop hate – perhaps more than we even know. After all, our singular aim as a leader is to create an environment where our team can do their best work. An environment where our team feels safe, valued, and respected. An environment where racism is indubitably repudiated. An environment where reflection, compassion, and inclusivity are encouraged.
Will you join me in working to create this kind of environment in your own team?
I write to you, as an Asian woman CEO, to ask us all to consider how our stereotypes, our jokes, our prejudices against Asians contribute to hate in our world. Join me in considering on what we can do to show greater respect for Asian people, and publicly condemn hate so it no longer can exist.
If you are a CEO or a manager in your organization, write a message or share a few words during your next team meeting. Make clear that Asian hate is not tolerated. Don’t worry that it’s “too late” or you didn’t react quick enough to when the hate crime occurred. Now is better than never. Be vocal, whether it’s publicly or internally, that you stand with the Asian community.
If you have Asian employees and coworkers, check-in on them in a sincere way. Send them a text message or a call, and let them know how horrified you are by the murders. Assure them it is safe to grieve, to share the racism they’ve experienced. Express how much you admire them, care about them, and support them.
In your own neighborhood, please look out for your fellow Asian neighbors, friends, and community members – particularly those who are elderly or live alone. Disturbingly, anti-Asian hate crimes increased 150% in 2020, while the overall hate crime rates have declined.
If you’re looking to educate yourself on the history of anti-Asian violence in America and the Asian-American identity and experience, here are some resources….
Articles, podcasts, docuseries:
- Read: History of anti-Asian hate and violence (Washington Post)
- Read: Anti-Asian violence history (Today.com)
- Read: 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents in past year (NBC News)
- Read: Diversity of Asian Americans (Pew Research Center)
- Listen: Self Evident: Asian America’s Stories
- Watch: Asian-American Docuseries (PBS)
- Stop AAPI Hate
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
- Asian Mental Health Collective
- Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, by Helen Zia
- The Making of Asian America: A History, by Erika Lee
- America is in the Heart, by Carlos Bulosan
- Days of Distraction, by Alexandra Chang
- Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong
- Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (Note: This was one of my absolute favorite books I read last year, that personally resonated with me, as a Korean American.)
If you are reading this and you are Asian, know this: It is okay to not be “okay.” Self-compassion is an act of resistance. You are allowed to grieve. You are allowed to let yourself feel trauma. You are allowed to be angry. We see you. We embrace you. We stand with you. We are in this together.
The darkness of hate can feel bleak and overwhelming – but together, through our actions and words, we can shine a light to overcome it.