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A Reflection on AAPI Heritage Month and How to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for AAPI Community Members

May is dedicated to celebrating people of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage and their contributions throughout U.S. history. Particularly, this year it is also an important opportunity to address the acts of intolerance that have placed AAPI people, communities, and businesses in danger. Many of these incidents were sparked by the prejudiced rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic, though discriminatory acts against Asians in America are not new and have at times been reflected in U.S. legislation.

On May 20, President Biden signed into law the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which is aimed at strengthening the federal response to the rise in unprovoked attacks against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The legislation was spurred in large part by the shooting of eight people in Atlanta, including six Asian women, in March. ITI commended the measure, and called for more efforts to ensure all communities are protected from prejudice. Further, as an already complex U.S.-China bilateral relationship intensifies, it is critical that the administration and policymakers continue to support the AAPI community and ensure that important concerns with China’s policies do not conflate the Chinese government with the Chinese people.

The technology sector has an important role to play in elevating the AAPI community in our workforce and elsewhere. In terms of talent, the technology industry must continue to broaden AAPI representation and diversity at the highest level in its companies. More broadly, the AAPI community should not be treated as a monolith. The AAPI experience in tech is as diverse as the community itself, and the Model Minority Myth remains pervasive, painting Asian American workers as well-educated, hardworking individuals that have “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” to become successful. The condescending myth is used as a weapon to perpetuate stereotypes of Black, Indigenous, and Latin Americans and explain away structural racism. The myth also erases differing experiences among AAPI people. Tech companies have a responsibility to continue to combat such bias and stereotypes within the industry and develop solutions that meaningfully advance equity.

The industry must make a sustained investment in the AAPI community and continue to give back. Here’s what some of ITI’s members are doing to show their support:

  • HP Foundation donated $150,000 to AAPI community organizations and will scale the HP Turn to Learn program by developing anti-xenophobia children’s books to help foster future allies and upstanders.
  • Salesforce committed $700,000 to Stop AAPI Hate and $250,000 to the Chinatown Community Development Center.
  • Google has donated more than $3 million in Google.org cash grants to Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and more than 35 local organizations across the country.
  • Zoom was an early supporter of the "Stand With Asian Americans" pledge, which commits to donating $10 million to support the AAPI community.

The most effective response to the attacks and harmful rhetoric against AAPI people is for government and industry to work together to promote a diverse and inclusive environment in our workforces, our communities, and in the policies we implement. This can be achieved in large part through understanding the power of our actions and words, as well as how stereotypes and fearmongering, when repeated enough, translate into discriminatory actions and practices, and sometimes lethal or fatal incidents within our own communities.

Public Policy Tags: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion