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How to Take Action Against Anti-Asian Racism at Work and in Your Personal Life

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The fatal shootings of eight people in the Atlanta this week, including six Asian women, put into sharp focus calls to end anti-Asian racism and acts of violence across the country. Members of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities say it's just the latest in a devastating string of incidents that have gotten more attention since the beginning of the pandemic.

Experts have pointed to several factors behind the rise in anti-Asian racism over the last year, including a history of xenophobia toward Asian communities, as well as former President Donald Trump and other political leaders' repeated use of racist rhetoric to describe Covid-19.

Though investigations of the Atlanta shootings are ongoing, experts and activists say it's "nearly impossible" to divorce race and sexual violence from the discourse of the suspect's motives.

AAPIs have spent the last few days publicly grieving the attacks, centering issues of anti-Asian racism, and calling for the public to take action using the #StopAsianHate tag. Here's what advocates say you can do to help stop anti-Asian racism and support the Asian community right now.

Acknowledge anti-Asian racism

A good place to begin is for AAPIs and their allies to acknowledge anti-Asian racism in the first place.

Some academics have pointed to 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, as a means to erase a history of AAPI discrimination in the U.S. It may be why some people haven't seen anti-Asian racism as an issue before.

"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," says Michelle Kim, CEO of the diversity training provider Awaken. "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."

But anti-Asian racism dates back centuries to the 1850s during the first wave of East Asian immigrants to the U.S., and throughout hundreds of years of exclusionary policy.

And it's manifested in very specific ways during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, said it received 3,795 self reports of anti-Asian hate incidents between March 2020 and last month. Women are more likely to be targeted and accounted for 68% of the reports versus 29% for men.

Check in and offer specific forms of support

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 friend, you might offer your time if they want to talk, or a extend a nice gesture like sending over food delivery.

As a colleague in the workplace, you can offer to take a meeting off their plate, extend a deadline or pitch in on a project, says consultant and author Kim Tran. 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.

The simplest thing managers and organizational leaders can do for their Asian American employees is to use their privilege to acknowledge the recent news of anti-Asian violence, and give space for impacted individuals to process, grieve and heal.

Career and leadership coach Kimberly Cummings spoke with CNBC Make It following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020 and stressed that leaders should reach out to all staff members, not just members of certain racial groups following a traumatic incident, to show that they are aware of what's going on and they have resources available for those in need.

Take action

Public figures spanning civil rights activism, media, entertainment, sports and beyond reacted to the news this week and the general rise of anti-Asian racism in the past year. There are also a number of ways you can take action beyond denouncing anti-Asian violence.

For example, Stop AAPI Hate found from their data in the last year that businesses are the primary site of discrimination, where 35.4% of hate incidents were logged; 25.3% of reported incidents took place in public streets, followed by 9.8% that occurred in public parks. The coalition offers multilingual resources for those who experience or witness AAPI hate incidents to report it to the group. The coalition also provides safety tips for those encountering or witnessing hate incidents.

Importantly, experts have stressed the distinctions between what is a hate or bias incident (like a slur) and what is considered a hate crime (a physical act of violence that shows racial motivation). Experts say public mislabeling can have legal impact, from jury deliberation to a greater sentence for a suspect.

Advocacy groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice offer bystander intervention training, which can be done virtually. Tran encourages people to seek out local grassroots justice organizations and mutual aid efforts to lend support in their own communities.

Donate to AAPI causes and businesses

Simply put, "get involved, and if you can't, send money," Tran says. This list from New York magazine shares more than 60 ways to donate in support of Asian communities.

In recent weeks, GoFundMe.org created the AAPI Community Fund to support tax-deductible donations toward grassroots organizations that aim to empower and protect the AAPI community, with initiatives such as increased community safety and support for those affected by violence.

A GoFundMe representative confirmed to CNBC Make It that its Trust and Safety team verified several fundraising campaigns in support of the victims' families from the Atlanta shooting.

Given the nature of the Atlanta shootings, advocates have also encouraged donating specifically toward groups that support Asian and Asian American women, such as the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.

Additionally, Chinatown businesses nationwide have been hit disproportionately hard during the pandemic between decreased foot traffic and rising anti-Asian xenophobia. Supporting your local Chinatown's restaurants, supermarkets and other shops can help these ethnic enclaves and their residents, who are statistically more likely to be living in poverty.

Make a long-term commitment to being anti-racist

Civil rights activist and Rise founder Amanda Nguyen says greater education about the experiences of Asians in America is crucial to bridging the gaps to end anti-Asian racism. She encourages people to start from home: "Turn on your computer and find out more information about the AAPI community and listen to the grassroots organizers on the ground."

Indeed, people may also be unaware of the long history of Asian American organizing to end racism targeted toward AAPIs as well as Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA, immigrant, low-income and other marginalized communities. Kim suggests learning about this history — this five-part PBS special is a good place to start — and supporting the ongoing work of advocacy groups, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, AAPI Women LeadStop AAPI Hate and countless others.

Workplaces can also use this time to examine how they perpetuate anti-Asian discrimination in the workforce, such as in hiring (AAPIs are overrepresented in low-wage service work), pay inequities (AAPIs have the highest income inequality of any racial or ethnic group) and promotions practices (white-collar AAPIs are the least likely demographic to be promoted into leadership).

Kim adds that corporate diversity, equity and inclusion trainings often leave out issues that impact Asians in the workplace and says organizations should invest in more nuanced trainings that go beyond seeing "race as a very Black and white issue."

Eric Toda, a Facebook executive who's personally used his platform to address anti-Asian racism, says he wants to see more allyship from white decisionmakers at brands, within companies and among the public overall.

"The conversation always comes back to: How are you being anti-racist and supporting your entire community and employee base with education and support, so when it happens to another community in the future, you're ready?" he says. "The reality is, being anti-racist isn't a 2020 thing. It's not even a 2021 thing. It's a forever thing."

Check out:

‘Stand up, condemn this violence’: Politicians, advocates, celebrities call for support of Asian Americans following Atlanta shootings

How to support Asian American colleagues amid the recent wave of anti-Asian violence

How millennial Nobel Prize nominee Amanda Nguyen's viral video sparked coverage of anti-Asian racism

'The model minority myth is killing us': Facebook exec calls public to confront anti-Asian racism

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