As someone who grew up in China and spent the last 20 years living overseas, including for the past 14 years in the U.S., I know a thing or two about the importance of diversity and equality. I was not sure how to speak out against the growing anti-Asian sentiment we are seeing in this country, but I am speaking up now.
I am horrified to see the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, with over 2,800 incidents reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Then, the outrageous shootings last week that left six people of Asian descent dead. I am reminded again and again of how Asian Americans are excluded as a true minority because of our perceived proximity to whiteness. How because of this model minority myth, stereotypes against us are brushed off because we fit this perceived “image.” How this can make us invisible.
An important aspect of Asian culture that you learn about when you are a child is to respect people and not cause trouble. We prove our worth by studying and working hard, and we never want to be in anybody’s way. I used to laugh off the occasional “go back to China” jabs. I knew what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it was convenient to keep my head down.
But with the recent events, I can no longer stay silent. This is the first time that many members of our Asian communities are afraid to walk alone, to venture off to the grocery store in broad daylight. In my own life, more and more of my friends experienced discrimination. My parents stopped feeling safe walking in the park after news that an elderly Asian man was stabbed in San Francisco. My neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter was called “coronavirus” at school. Feeling vulnerable and unsafe made me start to question my own sense of belonging here, but I know America is so much better than this.
I am encouraged that more and more people are acknowledging these issues and are standing up to the racism directed at Asians in this country. As the CFO of Beauty for All (BFA) Industries, I realized I needed to use my voice and platform to call out and raise awareness of what’s happening, and to try to make a change. So I am making a pledge to stop being silent about these issues.
It is time to use our voices and share our stories so we are not rendered invisible. As a community, we can reshape our place in the world so that the next generation of Asian Americans can feel safe and have a better future in this country. I include the 32% of BFA Industries employees who self-identify as Asian as part of that next generation, and I am determined to support this rich well of future Asian American leaders. At BFA Industries, we are committed to our mission of inspiring self-expression and making beauty more inclusive and welcoming to all, and we have no tolerance for racism, hate, or discrimination of any kind. I am incredibly proud and grateful for the support my colleagues, teams, and peers have provided, and the countless emails and texts that I have received over the past couple of weeks. I am also optimistic that the dialogue we are now having, the truths that we are now sharing, will spark a necessary change in the way that we are seen, heard, and perceived.
If you are wondering how you can join all of us at BFA Industries in showing your support for the Asian American community, I hope you will consider these ideas.
- Raise awareness of the issue by sharing your story.
- Educate yourself on the Asian American experience and identify your own bias.
- Be an ally. It can be as simple as not letting the Asian American jokes slide by, but there are many ways you can show that you are an ally to the Asian American community.
- Support AAPI brands and businesses. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been compounded with anti-Asian discrimination. If you can, consider supporting Asian-owned business in your community.
If you would like to learn more about policies, news, or action that affects the Asian American community, here are a few additional resources to consider:
- Stop AAPI Hate: This reporting center monitors and responds to incidents of hate, discrimination, and more against Asian Americans in the U.S.
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta: This nonprofit organization works to protect the civil rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in Georgia and the Southeast.
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: This national organization protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans.
Together, we can confront violence, racism, and injustice. I hope you will join me, my BFA colleagues, and my friends on this journey, not only for the benefit of Asian Americans but for progress toward equality for all races.
- Valen Tong