Anti-Asian violence first began to rise at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, in the past few weeks, six Asian women were shot along with two other people at an Atlanta-area massage spa in an act of misogynistic racism. In 2020 alone, the group Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate, there were 3,795 reports of racist incidents.
The problem is getting worse, not better, and Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Island communities are carrying their trauma, anxiety, and fear into their personal and professional lives. Now is the time to step up and demonstrate your support in the workplace. Here’s how you can show your support to your Asian co-workers right now.
1. Reach out to learn how to best support
Your Asian colleagues may appear just fine day to day, but don’t base your assumptions on outward appearances. Grief trauma therapists are calling this behavior “social splitting.” It occurs after a loss when someone feels differently from how they act at work.
While some individuals are less productive after trauma occurs, others actually have an increase in work productivity. They dive right into what they’re doing and use their functionality as a defense mechanism. So, while managers may assume that Asian employees need extended deadlines or time off, it’s better to actually talk to them to see how best you can meet their needs.
2. Let them lead the conversations
As well-meaning as a question like, “How is it going in light of all the news?” sounds, it still places the burden on your Asian colleague to give you feedback. Right now, it can feel intrusive, especially with emotions running high.
Instead, if you feel it’s appropriate to say something with your relationship, say something like, “Just wanted to let you know that I am here if you need anything.”
This can leave their response open-ended and allows them to lead the conversation if and when they feel ready.
3. Don’t act just to console yourself
During this time, it’s natural to want to reach out to those around us, but before you do so, reflect on your reasons for doing so. Do you want to be genuinely supportive, or is your desire to be helpful and kind just a way of making yourself feel better about the situation at hand?
There’s a good chance that your answer is “a little bit of both.” Your intent to feel better will be an obstacle to listening to what your colleagues need. Don’t become a person who just copies and pastes messages from person to person. If you’re going to do the work — really doing the work. Address your own feelings before reaching out to a person who has greater needs than your own.
Remember, starting the conversation and checking in on your colleagues is only the beginning of this conversation. Consider adding a diversity calendar at work to engage in these difficult conversations.
As an ally, begin educating yourself and examining your own feelings as it pertains to this topic, so you can serve as a greater support system to those around you.