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May 31, 2022 By Melissa Beck

AAPI month helps to understand and dispel Asian stereotypes at work

AAPI month helps to understand and dispel Asian stereotypes at work

According to the 2020 Census, an estimated 24 million people in the United States identify as Asian alone or in combination with one or other race groups. An estimated 1.6 million people identify as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

To honor Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), Sumo Logic recently hosted speaker, educator and professional learning facilitator Dr. Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn. To address the needs of this large and diverse group, she discussed the Asian experience at work and how to foster greater inclusion for Asian/Pacific Islanders within our organization. Sarah took a look back into history to help us understand where certain Asian stereotypes and misconceptions come from, why they still hold power today and how they might be affecting people at work.

Some of the key takeaways from the session:

  • Common AAPI stereotypes like "Yellow Peril," "Model Minority," and "Bamboo Ceiling" is rooted in history and have harmful downstream effects.

The historical origins of these Asian stereotypes play a significant role in the increase of hate and violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander American communities. Everyone needs to understand where they came from to help give us insight into not only the reason for this surge but also into some of our own implicit biases.

  • Disaggregate demographic data on the Asian / Pacific Islander communities to help dispel these stereotypes.

The "Asian" demographic isn't a monolith and comprises a range of ethnicities, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Filipino and dozens of others. Immigration policies have shaped and in some cases, distorted overall equity and parity data for the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, masking real struggles and challenges they face.

  • Consider these strategies to help speak up and combat bias/stereotyping statements:

  • Disrupt/interrupt the moment

Using phrases like "I don't like that” or "It surprises me to hear you say that” can help dispel the moment and help people stop to think about what they said.

  • Ask a question

Asking clarifying questions like "What did you mean by that?" or "Can you tell me more?" can help clarify points of view.

  • Help educate

"Do you know the history of that group?" or "Here's how the word might be interpreted” are simple ways to help educate others who may not know as much about the history or culture of a particular group.

Dr. Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn

Dr. Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn

Employee Reflections on AAPI

Hear from some of our employees on the importance of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, some of the challenges they’ve faced and why they’re hopeful for the future of AAPI awareness.

Meg Chan: SOX Compliance Director

Meg Chan: SOX Compliance Director

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

While Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a relatively new observance. I believe this is a month to celebrate who I am and celebrate with my community. It’s also a time to have more self-awareness and introduce our culture to other ethnic groups. There are a ton of festivals out there that celebrate AAPI cultures, such as Chinese New Year, Cherry Blossom Festival, Indian Diwali, and more, but AAPI Heritage Month really provides a moment in time for awareness of all Asian cultures.

We’ve seen increases in cultural and racial awareness, such as Black Lives Matter and Asian Hate. Why do you think this is?

Honestly, I think COVID was a key driver because it brought isolation and the pressure of quarantine, job security, kids being home from school, supply chain issues, so people were anxious about the future. People needed a way to express emotions and that subsequently raised a lot of questions and awareness about underlying issues in our society.

Is there a particular Asian stereotype you’d like to break?

There are so many stereotypes in Asian culture. Movies like Crazy Rich Asians showed the world the importance of Asian traditions and culture, but it also portrayed a culture of auto wealth without context. Working hard has always been in our nature. Our ancestors came to the U.S. and worked hard to build a life. While some experienced wealth, it wasn’t without hardship. I think others need to understand where we come from and learn from our history and experiences and this will help cancel some of these stereotypes.

What can people do to become allies and support the AAPI community?

Be open-minded, listen, participate in the conversation and be curious to learn. I think AAPI has a great community with rich stories that have had a significant impact on this country. Now we have this platform to express ourselves and I would love to see our allies take a more open-minded approach to learning about other cultures and tell these stories to others.

I have two kids and I’m immersing them every day in their culture –– to be proud of where they come from and who they are, the food they eat and the language they speak. My kids speak fluent Cantonese and Mandarin at home and English at school. I’m hopeful that the more confidence kids have growing up knowing their own cultures, the better they will be at expressing themselves, and eventually, different cultures will be more accepted.

Melody Fan: Sr. Director of HR

Melody Fan: Sr. Director of HR

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

To me, AAPI is all about having a voice and using that to help educate others to understand Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. There is a common stereotype among Asians that we don’t speak up, so it’s important that we have a voice and AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to use that voice, learn about other Asian cultures, embrace differences and celebrate who we are and the broader AAPI community.

Can you share your journey and some of the challenges you may have faced in your career as a result of Asian stereotypes?

When I reflect on my journey from migrating to the U.S. from China, going to an American school to entering the corporate world, it was a major culture shock. I came to the U.S. at the age of 13 and I felt like I had to grow up quickly and be independent because my parents were busy trying to learn a new culture and language and figure out how to support the family, which is a typical immigrant experience. I was really on my own to figure it out from thereon.

When I was just starting out in my career, I felt like I was at a disadvantage and really vulnerable and lost on how to fit in. I would have loved to have had a mentor or ally who could let me know that it’s okay that I was not like everybody else. So, when I see someone going through a similar situation or having a hard time adjusting to Western culture in a corporate world, I go out of my way to let them know that I understand how they’re feeling and encourage them to keep learning and show up.

What can allies do to help break stereotypes and support AAPI?

When the opportunity comes up, don’t hesitate to reach out if you see someone struggling, regardless of their ethnic background. It makes a big difference, whether or not you understand exactly what they’re going through. Encourage them to tell their story and to keep going. Lastly, for those who may be quieter, give them space to contribute. For example, if you see someone who is shy in a meeting, ask them what their opinion is, encourage them to contribute and use their voice.

Do you think we're closing the gap in breaking Asian stereotypes?

When I grew up in China, there seemed to be a perception that Western culture is the better culture. But today the world feels more open and balanced. Many Americans study and live in Asian countries so I’m hopeful that in the future we live in a world where we appreciate each other’s culture. My American-born children already have a different experience in embracing both American and Chinese culture. They are taught in school that it’s cool to appreciate multiple cultures and languages. We're making progress in broadening our understanding of people who may not be like us.

Are you interested in joining the Sumo Logic team? Sumo Logic is hiring around the globe! Check out our current openings here

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Melissa Beck

Melissa Beck

Sr. Director of Global Communications

Melissa is a strategic communications professional with 20+ years of experience developing and scaling global communications and influencer programs. Currently, she leads global communications for Sumo Logic focusing on corporate thought leadership, customer advocacy, employee communications and social media. In addition, she runs Sumo Logic's Customer Advisory Board.

More posts by Melissa Beck.

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