28 May Unity is Strength. Diversity is Power
How did you celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
I was so thrilled to see the collective action taken by my fellow AAPI, African American and Latino entrepreneur friends.
Yesterday I participated on Mirror Digital’s Mirror Moments Panel on AAPI — spearheaded by the incredible CEO Sheila Marmon.
Here are some highlights from our conversation on forging community, celebrating diversity and working towards greater inclusion.
How did you celebrate AAPI Heritage Month? How will you continue to support this important movement?
Wishing you a relaxing Memorial Day Weekend ahead!
“In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
– Maya Angelou
The term ‘Asian American Pacific Islander’ includes a wide range of languages, ethnicities, national origins, religions and other diversity. Over the years, it’s been challenging.
What does the term mean to you?
I am both South East Asian American and Pacific Islander Filipino and Samoan Tongan so my ethnicity covers both Asian & Pacific Islander I look in the mirror and AAPI is me. It’s my family, my friends, and relatives. In the past, each Asian ethnicity stuck to their own. I feel the power of this collective group and for the first time it feels like a united, all-encompassing AAPI group can do more together than the individual parts.It’s important that AAPI is an inclusive, rather than exclusive community. We are a broad collective of ethnicities, languages and perspectives, with the common link that part or all of our ancestry came from the continent of Asia or islands in the Pacific. We welcome many people under the large umbrella of our shared and different experiences.
How can individuals and organizations consciously create community among AAPI groups?
We need to let go of our own stereotypes of each Asian community and unite as one. It’s unfortunate that the world sees all Asians as coming from the same place. I’m not Chinese, but I am Filipino. We must bring our unique ethnic qualities to create a stronger community.
All people who identify as AAPI should recognize that movements of common purpose are gained through collective effort, with strength in numbers.
While AAPI can be split into multiple groups of different national origin, in total it is only 7% of the nation’s population.
Tribalism and the interests of one group vs. another will be prohibitive to collective progress, so it’s important to recognize that in America, AAPI is one group with shared interests.
According to The Pew Research Center, “most US adults feel that what happens to their own racial or ethnic group affects them personally.”
Do you have any experience with Linked Fate?
It hurt me deeply that our Korean and Thai brothers and sisters have been brutally attacked. I feel an affinity to what happens not only to my Filipino community but all Asians overall. Asians share a very similar story and heritage in America. We have many shared values, principles, cultures, and upbringing. If there are issues in one Asian racial group, I think it should affect us all. We should always take personally a random hate attack against any other AAPI person because it could be us next. Racists and bigots cannot distinguish between different ethnic groups within the AAPI community, to them we are all the same.
Do you believe that concepts of race, ethnicity, immigrant status shape how AAPI groups view themselves and organize for representation in the public arena? If so, how? How does this show up in how brands speak to AAPI groups?
I’m not sure that concepts of race, ethnicity and immigrant status always shape how AAPI groups view themselves, but they should. We are the underdogs to the majority here in America. In general, we are the silent model citizens. Because of that, our representation in the government, media, and entertainment is not as strong as other ethnicities. Our silence leads to a lack of organization in the public arena. I do think that the younger generation is changing this perception. They are more vocal. There has often been an erroneous assumption that to be silent in the face of discrimination, and just keep a low profile and not ever speak up, is the best way to assimilate into mainstream America. This approach has proven time and time again to be ineffective. AAPI individuals and groups should be leaders in educating the larger society about their unique AAPI background and experiences, and what contributions AAPI individuals and groups have made to the American experience.
“Always better together”
How has your heritage shaped who you are today and impacted your work?
It has shaped my work both positively and negatively. Positively when it comes to the value AAPI usually places on education and hard work toward achieving objectives. Negative when it comes to how AAPI are looked at as hard workers, but not as innovators or leaders in the workplace. I am an immigrant. My parents, brothers, and sisters, and I immigrated from the Philippines. They have shown me what it takes to be successful here. Every day growing up, they led by example. My parents’ countless hours as entrepreneurs where they built a successful business selling anything from fine china and cutlery to plumbing company showed me what is possible. I’ve inherited their work ethic that guides me to this day.
Why is it important to recognize the differences among cultures and ethnicities?
Every culture is unique. The world would be tasteless if we were all the same flavor. Each ethnic group in America has a different and unique history and story within the American experience. It’s been proven through research (Stanford conducted a study on this) that providing people ethnic (minority) studies is a benefit both for both the person whose ethnicity is being discussed as well as for people learning about ethnicities different than their own. This is true with any and all ethnic groups.
WORKING TOWARD GREATER INCLUSION
How do we encourage awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? How can individuals recognize this month respectfully? What roles do brands, advertisers, and media companies have in this journey?
People of AAPI backgrounds are likely (painfully) aware that history of any kind regarding the AAPI community in American schools is largely nonexistent. It’s incumbent upon AAPI individuals and groups to change this, starting with general awareness and education. Brands and advertisers should recognize they have been unconsciously complicit in ignoring the AAPI community and/or reinforcing negative stereotyping and should take measures to improve by not only including AAPI people in their campaigns and in a more positive light.
In a year marred by exceptional challenges, how are you finding joy, celebrating your culture, and taking care of yourself and your community? How are you creating opportunities to support yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
I’m mad as hell about the Covid scapegoating and hate crimes, but also finding great joy and power in being part of the conversation. I’ve started an affinity group for AAPI parents at Harvard Westlake School and also working with the Los Angeles Mayor’s office as part of the AAPI task force and look forward to creating events and curriculum to help educate people about the AAPI community and their critical role in American history.
Reports of anti-Asian violence and harassment continue to rise. What can the folks listening do to help respond to racism and build the safe and peaceful communities we all deserve? What is your perspective on the #StopAsianHate movement?
The AAPI community seems to have really rallied to the moment. It needs to keep this momentum going and not fall back into previous patterns of being the ‘model minority’ who just shuts up and works without speaking up when conscious or unconscious racism occurs.
How can institutions and organizations produce a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds– including AAPI?
It’s cliche, but the sooner we all view ourselves as one race, the human race, the quicker these types of conversations won’t be needed. Our family finds joy in supporting Asian-owned restaurants all around Los Angeles. There’s nothing like trying new foods which is a gateway into the culture.
Institutions and organizations need to provide systematic and consistent training and background about the AAPI community. Some institutions are providing unconscious bias training when it comes to gender and other ethnic minorities, and AAPI should be part of that and more. And after the training is in place, provide key performance indicators and gauge/measure to see if this training was taken to heart. If not, have a system to fix it.
Unfortunately, racism will always exist. Racism is taught. You’ve seen the videos of two babies holding hands or hugging that are from different backgrounds. We need to educate our kids so they don’t perpetuate the hate. The #StopAsianHate movement is awesome. It’s raising awareness for Asian issues. It’s showing the world that we’re no longer the silent minority. It’s creating empathy from other cultures for our causes.
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
– Ryunosuke Satoro
My friend talented friend, entrepreneur, filmmaker, educator,Ian Truitner, created this video to help educate kids and young adults on AAPI. Check it out!