It is an all too familiar scene in America, another mass shooting, this time killing six Asian American women, in a suburb of Atlanta. This brazen act of hate, in addition to the years of racism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric, is the unbearable and unjust plight of Asian Americans. Many are routinely harassed as being somehow connected to the spread of Covid-19. In fact, hate crimes against this community have jumped 150 percent in 2020, with 3,800 self-reported cases of anti-Asian bias crimes in the past year. In one sickening incident, a middle-aged white man spat on and then hit an 80-year-old Asian woman, knocking her unconscious near a shopping mall in White Plains, NY. There has been a marked downturn in business for restaurants and shops in Chinatowns across the U.S., as patrons initially feared disease transmission, then blamed China for the dreaded disease.
Our senior team, led by Lisa Ross, Edelman U.S. COO, and Trisch Smith, our global chief Diversity and Inclusion officer, convened a call at midday today. I expressed my deep regret and concern to the assembled members of Edelman Boundless, our Asian American and Pacific Islander employee network, and other Edelman colleagues. I then had tears in my eyes as I listened to the comments from Asian American colleagues:
“The Atlanta attack is breaking me. I can see my friends and my family in the victims.”
“I have a sense of ‘otherness.’ I do not feel accepted as an American.”
“We are supposed to be quiet and accept this stuff. I am tired of doing that.”
It is time for America to get serious about putting a stop to hate crimes against Asian Americans. The Committee of 100, the leadership organization of Chinese Americans in business, government and the arts, has put out a seven-point plan demanding action. Among the highlights are a call for expulsion of any public official or law enforcement officer stoking hate or discriminating against Asian Americans. It also asks for the Justice Department to set up a task force to specifically investigate the crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.
I pledge our pro-bono support for Asian American organizations seeking to fight hate. We need a campaign to educate Americans about the history of anti-Asian racism and actions we can all take to combat hate in all its insidious forms—such as the immediate effort of the misinformation around the cause and origin of this epidemic. Our U.S. leadership team has already pledged pro-bono support to Stop AAPI Hate. Asian Americans are Americans, and America must end hate and treat and value all of its citizens as equal participants in our democracy. That means more actions, less words.
Richard Edelman is CEO.