April 12, 2021
Vice President, Global Space Policy and Government Relations, Astroscale U.S.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and a rise in hate crimes committed against Asian Americans, the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community has faced tremendous challenges over the past year. The intersection of these two issues has had an especially profound impact on Asian-owned businesses.
Here’s how people can support Asian-owned businesses and the AAPI community as a whole.
Government and Business Leaders Have an Obligation to Speak Up
“Every wave of immigrants has faced discrimination and faced prejudice, and Asian-Americans have encumbered that for centuries,” said Ambassador Gary Locke, interim president of Bellevue College and former U.S. ambassador to China.
“A lot of it was brought out again because of the pandemic and the coronavirus,” he added. “We need leadership from the top saying that whatever our differences with [China], we should not be scapegoating Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans.”
However, government leaders are not the only ones responsible for speaking up; business leaders also have an obligation to speak out on moral issues.
“They may want to stay away from politics, but we’re talking about humanity,” Locke emphasized. “We need them to be engaged in the conversation … with their own employees and certainly within their own communities.”
“Farther out, nationally, we need more leadership because voices [and] words do matter,” he added. “They carry weight, and they have an impact.”
AAPI Businesses Have Been Disproportionately Affected by COVID-19
Chiling Tong, president and CEO of the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE), noted that the twofold issues of COVID-19 and Asian American discrimination have negatively impacted AAPI businesses.
“We have made a significant contribution to American society with our strong economic output, productivity and also job creation,” Tong explained. “Unfortunately … the state of AAPI business [in] America is in jeopardy, like any other minority business.”
Citing a study from the National ACE, she continued: “More than 84% of AAPI owners say COVID-19 has [had] a negative effect on their business … [and] one in three female AAPI owners have also experienced racial bias.”
How People Can Come Together to Support the Asian Community
Susan Au Allen, national president and CEO of the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, highlighted two key ways people can come together to support the Asian community.
“First, go and patronize [AAPI-owned businesses],” said Au Allen. “They are the very first group to be hurt by the pandemic — economically, and because of the misconception of who the Asian Americans really are.”
The second way people can support the AAPI community is to take action if they see any racially motivated acts of violence or hatred.
“If you see somebody being hurt, if it’s safe for you, go and intervene,” Au Allen stressed. “Call 911, and if it’s safe … record it so the police can trace them.”
“Don’t be a bystander,” she continued. “The more of us [who] come together, the stronger the country will be.”
Uplifting AAPI Businesses and the People Behind Them
In addition to financially supporting Asian-owned businesses, it’s crucial to remember that the people behind those businesses may be struggling as well.
“The thing that we’re facing right now is we’re not okay collectively, and we need each other [to] pick each other up,” stressed Kenny Nguyen, Co-Founder and CEO of ThreeSixtyEight. “Check in with your friends; ask them if they’re OK.”
He also noted the importance of having “uncomfortable conversations for the betterment of humanity” and amplifying the voices of Asian Americans that might not always be heard.
“If you’re a leader, help amplify the voices of those on your own team that are [of] AAPI descent,” Nguyen noted. “Get them leadership opportunities, help push them up, because those rising tides will lift us all together.”