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“Not American enough”: Life as an Asian American in the time of COVID-19

During this pandemic, it feels like I cannot be American enough. Based on physical appearance alone, Asian Americans are deemed the “other” and if we are the other, it is easier to dehumanize us.

Indeed’s Asian Network provides perspective on xenophobia and racism associated with the COVID-19 outbreak

Rick Chen is a Program Manager in the Talent Attraction organization in Austin, Texas and a member of the Asian Network Inclusion Resource Group (IRG) at Indeed. He lived in Taiwan as a child and later worked there as an adult for 4 years. He is a native of Houston, avid traveler and lover of tacos.

Having experienced SARS via my family in Taiwan in 2003, I already had a sense of what to anticipate when I realized the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. From food, cleaning supplies and day-to-day items, I had a pretty good idea of what I would need to ride out the current scenario.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the xenophobia and racism that I and many Asian Americans have faced in the last few months since the outbreak began.

In this together, but singled out

While the coronavirus may have originated in Wuhan, China, it does not discriminate against anyone; old/young, male/female, Black/White/Asian/LatinX, Religious/Non-Religious, it doesn’t care. 

In spite of this, many people around the world are taking out their fear and frustration on people of Asian descent simply because of the association of where the virus originated, calling it the ‘Wuhan Virus, ‘Chinese Virus’ or other joking names like ‘Kung Flu,’ which doesn’t help the situation, as it again associates a region or an Asian stereotype with the virus.

Not American enough

Christina Edwards

I’ve talked with many of my fellow Indeedians and members of Indeed’s Asian Network about their experiences being Asian American today. My colleague Christina Edwards’ story on our internal blog resonates with me and many Asian Americans right now.

“During this pandemic, it feels like I cannot be American enough. Based on physical appearance alone, Asian Americans are deemed the “other” and if we are the other, it is easier to dehumanize us. It is ok to point fingers, post “funny” memes, write racial slurs on face masks, go off on rants or physically assault someone you don’t even know, all based on the perception of what an American should look like.”

I’ve felt exasperated and angry at the news of people verbally and/or physically assaulting Asians/Asian Americans, accusing them of spreading the coronavirus and using derogatory remarks.

According to the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council’s Stop AAPI Hate website, which launched on March 19th, they received over 1,100 incident reports of verbal harassment, shunning and physical assault in just two weeks

Fighting the stigma

Despite all the negativity, I’m optimistic that this is a learning opportunity, not just for Americans, but for everyone globally. I say this because of the myriad conversations I’ve engaged with people from all over the world, having civil discussions on what is/isn’t acceptable, and why using terms like ‘Chinese Virus’ are wrong and have a direct negative impact on Asians.

I’m buoyed by the support and transparency that Indeed has shown during this time, from how early the Senior Leadership Team reacted to the situation and implemented our work from home policy to our Asian Network IRG bringing attention to the challenges that the Asian community is currently facing.

With May being Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, now is a great opportunity to educate the broader community on the distinct cultures that make up Asians and Pacific Islanders and discuss the challenges we face in today’s climate of fear and finger pointing.

Indeed’s Asian Network making a difference

One way I’m trying to make an impact is joining our Asian Network COVID-19 task force, helping to organize conversations to educate and combat the xenophobia that we’re experiencing. We helped put together an Asian Network Coronavirus FAQ and resource hub with helpful information on how Indeedians can be allies. 

Don Carino

Other ways the Asian Network at Indeed is helping add to the discourse is by highlighting multiple perspectives about the Asian experience on our internal communications platform, as well as hosting a virtual discussion panel titled “I am not a virus” led by our own Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, LaFawn Davis, and featuring prominent members of the Asian community talking about important topics to educate Indeedians and the community at large about how they can fight the stigma and be allies for those affected by racism and xenophobia.

My colleague Don Carino sums up well what being a part of the Asian Network at Indeed means to him during this difficult time.

“The non-stop media coverage can be confusing with commentary all over the spectrum. For me, the Asian Network became a place where I can give and receive much needed support. The Asian Network affords me the opportunity to process copious amounts of information into knowledge.  Also, it’s assuring to have a place where I can confide without fear of malice.”

Indeed is here to help

Through it all, the Indeed mission of trying to help those who have had their employment impacted keeps me focused on the bigger picture and gives me a greater sense of purpose outside myself.

Don shares a similar sentiment.

“The Indeed message during this time is clear: We are Here to Help. I see ‘Here to Help’ shared amongst my coworkers, whether it’s a simple wellness check-in over text, phone call, video chat or even memes,” he recalls.

“I see ‘Here to Help’ through specialized efforts for the people we serve that are searching for work. I see hope when Indeed helps them gain employment. I see it with the clients I work with, regardless of whether their company is ramping up or decreasing their hiring efforts. I am so thankful, and it is with great pride, I call myself an Indeedian.”

Learn more about Indeed’s Asian Network in the video below.

Learn more about Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Indeed and read more about life at Indeed on our #insideindeed culture blog.

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