Respond to Racism Against Asians, and Other Actions for Allies

Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

1. Respond to racism against Asians

While it’s important to call out racism of any kind, it’s especially important to realize that people of Asian descent in the US are experiencing it now more than ever. Want to know what it looks like? Read this New York Times article, Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety.

We may see this racism show up in online forums, in the grocery store, or from across the street as we venture outside to get some fresh air.

If I witness it, I hope I have the strength and courage to respond. Inspired by this graphic for what to do when witnessing Islamophobic harassment, I’ll engage the person who’s being targeted in everyday conversation, albeit from a safe social distance. I’ll look at them directly, ignoring the attacker. I’ll ask them if they’re okay, and if there’s anything else I can do.

I hope I can make a difference.

2. Speak up against the phrase “Chinese virus”

Another form of racism is calling coronavirus a “Chinese virus.”

The Teaching Tolerance website recommends using “Speak Up” strategies to let people know you’re not okay with racist or xenophobic comments about the coronavirus or anything else. Their advice? Respond with, “Hang on. I want to go back to what you called the virus. What made you say that?”

3. Advocate for remote work, even after the current crisis abates

Over the last week or so, many of us have been thrust into a fully-remote work situation because of the coronavirus crisis. I imagine that many people are looking forward to getting back to the office, to the old routine, social interaction, break rooms stocked with beverages and snacks, and other perks.

Whenever you do return to your workplace, consider applying what you and your team learned about remote work and then advocate for doing more of it. Remote work can be a critical factor in leveling the playing field for those from underrepresented groups.

In Working from home is great for diversity. Let’s keep it going, tech analyst and diversity advocate Carolina Milanesi identified three demographics who can benefit from remote, flexible work:

  • Caregivers (who are mostly women),
  • People with disabilities that make it hard to commute or do their best work in an office, and
  • Members of underrepresented groups who don’t live in your region.

As Milanesi wrote,

“But when the crisis eventually passes, I hope the companies that rushed to get their employees working from home will not be too quick to fall back into their work-happens-at-work mindsets, but rather incorporate remote work practices into their businesses for the long run. They should purposefully use remote work to foster a more diverse workforce, because remote work is good for diversity, and diversity is great for business.”

(Thanks to Marcia Dority Baker for tweeting out this article, which brought it to my attention.)

4. Be the place where people want to be

Michelle Kim, CEO of Awaken, shared her thoughts on how companies can position themselves to be as competitive as possible in the current environment. Spoiler alert: it’s all about making your organization the place people want to be. She wrote,

“As the economy weakens, top candidates are going to be increasingly cautious about making their next career moves and you’re going to have to work extra hard to keep your top performers.”

At the end of each day, we can reflect on what we did for coworkers, customers, and the culture. And identify what we want to do the next day to be the place where people want to be.

Not sure what to do? Ask your team what they need in a daily stand-up meeting, which can easily be done remotely.

5. Don’t leave allyship behind

After reading last week’s edition of “5 Ally Actions,” newsletter subscriber Robert wrote to me,

“Even people willing to be better allies are practiced at being allies within a certain structure: their job, their friends. Now that thing has been drastically restructured [because of the coronavirus crisis]. People will be so focused on other things that the need to be a good ally can be dropped, left behind, or not remodulated into their new routine.”

I hope to play even a small role in helping make sure being an ally doesn’t get left behind during the hard times we’re all coping with right now.

I wish you strength and safety as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

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Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

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Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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