In this episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, Adrienne Lawrence, Diversity + Legal Commentator and Senior Consultant, Jennifer Brown Consulting, welcomed Co-Founder of Hate Is A Virus, Michelle K. Hanabusa, to discuss the recent rise of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can activate as allies during this time. Hate IsA Virus is a nonprofit community of mobilizers and amplifiers dedicated to dismantling hate and racism. Their latest initiative is the commUNITY Action Fund, an effort to raise $1 million to give back to local and national community organizations providing pivotal services and programs for the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community. To register for the upcoming events, visit bit.ly/dismantlebias.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
Michelle K. Hanabusa: I do want to advocate that it is really important to continue the education piece, and really learning about why these issues are happening, because violence against Asian Americans are not new. It has always existed since the Asian American experience in history has existed. So, really diving into the historical context as to why these things are happening, whether it’s scapegoated for issues perpetuated by sexism, xenophobia, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism. There’s a lot that really plays into this.
Doug Foresta: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Welcome to The Will To Change with Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, best-selling authors and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. Now, here’s your host, Jennifer Brown. Hello, and welcome back to The Will To Change. This is [Doug Foresta 00:01:04], and this episode was originally recorded as a DEI community call. It features a conversation with [Adrienne Lawrence 00:01:11], diversity and legal commentator and senior consultant at JBC. Adrienne welcomed co-founder of Hate Is A Virus, [Michelle K. Hanabusa 00:01:21], to discuss the recent rise of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can activate as allies during this time. I know you’ll get a lot out of this episode, but, Jennifer, I want to make sure that people know we have some upcoming events related to Hate Is A Virus. Can you share a little bit about those?
Jennifer Brown: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely, Doug. Yeah. As you said, this was originally a community call. We were joined, Adrienne was joined, by Michelle Hanabusa. Tammy Cho is the co-founder of Hate Is A Virus. So, we’ve got a couple upcoming programs in April, which are pro bono. So, we really encourage everybody to RSVP, even if you’re not sure you can make it. Please check out the link, which we’ll provide. This community call will give you a taste of what the conversation is going to be like. I want to definitely underscore that it’s a training that we’re offering twice in April. It will be focused on how to identify and stop anti-Asian bias in professional spaces.
Jennifer Brown: Very focused, as we always are, Doug, on thinking about the ramifications of social occurrences, happenings, movements, instances, the ripple effects of all these things on employees, on building workplace cultures of belonging, where our lived experience needs to be much more top of mind than it’s been, and where when we say we need to bring our full selves to work in order to create the best creativity, and collaboration, and results, and all those things, when the world outside is, when our loved ones, and when we ourselves are in danger on a constant basis, when we are hearing and reading about things in the news, when we’re staring at heartbreaking statistics about how the last year has really impacted employment opportunities, for example, for certain communities, let alone violence on the street and stories in the news, constantly.
Jennifer Brown: I think the hits just keep coming in this past year, of community after community, I think, finding our voice, their voice, and lifting up our voices, whether in ally-ship or, as those of us with the direct lived experience to be heard, to be very specific about the impact on us, and yes, that it applies to work. Absolutely. It applies to our productivity, our engagement. To feel, truly, that our identity is spoken about, is understood, is supported, that our truth is acknowledged, and that we are a priority to employers, there is really nothing more important than that. I feel like a broken record in my executive talks, Doug, over and over again, saying this, to say, “If you have blinders on, you need to take them off. If you haven’t thought through the effect of what’s happening outside on the reality inside our organizations, on our employees, on the communities we care about, and on the talent demographic, too, that we want to attract more of, and keep,” which is so many different missing identities in the workplace, I think.
Jennifer Brown: I just love that we’re able to do this, led by Adrienne Lawrence, who’s a fabulous senior consultant on the JBC team, and these incredible organizational leaders, Tammy Cho and Michelle Hanabusa. These conversations, I know, are going to be rich. If you’re listening to this and you work in an organization, and this is something you can share around, please do, because I know there’s been a lot of seeking of resources, seeking of educational programs, that are easy to bring in, that are free, ideally. Right? So, we really wanted to provide something like that and bring not only our insights as JBC, but the expertise and the lived experience of those at Hate Is A Virus right to the doorsteps of companies. So, there’s really no excuse to not have those conversations, to not bring in this, or any other program that you’ve heard great things about, because I know this is certainly not the only one.
Jennifer Brown: Definitely consider how you might bring this in and get those numbers up to attend it, because the more of us that learn about this, that means that we can develop our cultural competency. Whether we’re in a community or not, it’s our responsibility to develop the knowledge and understanding, and not just empathy, but anti-Asian bias activism and advocacy. We really need to nail that down to understand what it looks like, what it sounds like, and this call will help you connect those dots and be that advocate. Please check out … We have a Bit.ly link, Doug. I’m going to describe it here. For those of you who know, Bit.ly, it’s B-I-T.L-Y. Bit.ly/dismantlebias. That’s where you can RSVP. Again, it’s Bit.ly, B-I-T.L-Y/dismantlebias. Please consider joining us. Adrienne, let me hand it off to you. Take it away.
Adrienne Lawrence: Thank you so much, Jennifer. Thank you all for having me here. I know there is a lot going on right now in this world. So, I guess, first, before I jump into me and what Michelle and I have going on here, I just want to check in with you all and ask you what this moment feels like. I know, again, we have a lot going on with the Derek Chauvin trial. We have a lot of changes going on in Washington and what not. So, I wanted just to get my finger on the pulse. Hopefully, things are going as well as can be. They are pretty sunny out here in Los Angeles, California, where I am. I am a native Californian. I am also, as Jennifer mentioned, a senior consultant at Jennifer Brown Consulting, where I talk a lot about racism, sexism, lots of isms and discrimination, and how to overcome them in professional spaces.
Adrienne Lawrence: I also am the author of Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment, which just won the 2021 Gold [Axoim 00:07:55] Award for Business Book of the Year, particularly for women and people of color in workplaces. So, it’s very exciting. I am excited to share this moment and this stage with Michelle Hanabusa, the co-founder and COO of Hate Is A Virus. That’s a nonprofit and community of mobilizers and amplifiers, who are really dedicated to dismantling hate and racism, particularly as it concerns Asian American hate. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Hi, everyone. Good morning. Good afternoon. Adrienne, Jennifer, thank you so much for bringing me on today. It’s such a pleasure. I’m very excited to have this conversation with you all.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. We are excited to have you here today, as well as to partner with you. As Jennifer touched upon, Hate Is A Virus and Jennifer Brown Consulting are partnering on anti-Asian American bias training in workplaces. We’re going to be offering them to the public, addressing things like anti-Asian microaggressions, and how bias, discrimination really manifests in workplaces. It’ll be on April 19th, as well as April 22nd. There will be two times available, and it will be free to the public. We’ll have more information coming out about that, which will come by way of Jennifer Brown consulting, as well as Hate Is A Virus.
Adrienne Lawrence: Michelle, as we put together these trainings and have these conversations, I want to thank you so much for having your team work with us, so we can really build the momentum and have these conversations, to make spaces, all of them, safer for our Asian American brothers and sisters. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you and your co-founder, Tammy Cho, to create Hate Is A Virus?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. Absolutely. Just being in this space and working in the AAPI community, whether it was locally or nationally, these types of topics and issues have been really at the forefront of our minds for quite some time. At the height of the pandemic and before the lockdown … I’m based here in Los Angeles, California, actually. I just personally started to see, on my own news feed, just scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, and what not, seeing my brothers and sisters being brutally attacked and what not. I started to have these conversations with folks within my network, and it was actually quite shocking to me to see that they weren’t receiving the same type of news and the same type of information.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Growing up, and maybe this is something that we can touch on, too, later on in this conversation, but I was very much someone who didn’t necessarily speak up. I kept my head down. I just knew to continue to work hard and hopefully, I can be a successful entrepreneur or what not. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really started to not only gain the courage but also a responsibility amongst the AAPI community that I need to not be silent anymore, and continue to speak out. So, when I started to see this, I had a range of emotions. Right? I was scared. I was frightened. I was angry. I was confused. I was like, “This is the time for myself to not stay silent anymore.”
Michelle K. Hanabusa: I continued to have more of these conversations. I actually posted, for the first time, on my social media, really sharing my experience, and how I was feeling, and what I was planning to do with Hate Is A Virus. At that time, it was just a very … Some of my teammates and I, we were having a brainstorming session in my living room. One of my teammates, [Kari Okubo 00:12:03], actually coined the term, Hate Is A Virus. Our initial idea was to have local initiatives to support small businesses, because at that time, we were starting to see a decrease in folks going to the Chinatowns, the Little Tokyos, the K-Towns here in Los Angeles because of the misinformation that you would catch coronavirus if you were to go to these places.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: We wanted to support these small businesses, Asian-owned restaurants, and actually hold weekly food crawls within our community. We were able to hold one of those events, and then a couple of days later, lockdown happened. In between that time, my co-founder, Tammy Cho, and I, we connected. We had multiple conversations on what aspects we can do to continue to speak out and also raise awareness. So, once lockdown happened, we took this initial idea into the digital space. What we did was continued to share amongst our network and start a social media campaign. Surprisingly, within weeks, we were getting messages, and DMs, and emails from folks not only in the United States but Canada, the UK, and Australia, expressing that they were feeling the same things. They were experiencing the same thing, and also they were really glad to find a platform like this, so that they didn’t feel as alone.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. That is so powerful and important in terms of coming together and using your voice. I know that you and Tammy have been doing that. How I know Tammy is I also work with Better Brave. That’s an anti-workplace sexual harassment nonprofit. Tammy is one of the co-founders there. She is absolutely incredible. Just very much focused on eliminating bias in all spaces. Let’s take a look, real quick, at what the bias and the hate looks like right now for Asian Americans here in the United States, the hate around us.
Adrienne Lawrence: So, what we have here, the Pew Research Center is finding that about four in 10 US adults are saying that it’s so much more common, they’re seeing, for people to express racism, or racist ideologies, or these insensitive racial views about people who are Asian, than it was before the coronavirus outbreak. That shift is really problematic, especially as when we ask a majority of Asian adults, 58% say that it’s more common for people to express these anti-Asian sentiments. This is showing us how the coronavirus is impacting individuals in the way they are thinking, and who they are trying to pin or blame the pandemic on.
Adrienne Lawrence: You know what? It’s really important to take note of how other people are also viewing this, because in the survey, there were about four in 10 white people, Black and Hispanic adults, say that they also see it as being more common. This is problematic all around, and it’s being noticed. We see about three in 10 Asian adults … That’s around 39% … are saying that they’ve been subject to slurs or jokes because of their race and ethnicity since the breakout, or since the outbreak. That’s compared to about 21% of Black people, 15% of Hispanic adults, and eight percent of white adults. Also, when it comes to that physical element, we saw the unfortunate events in Atlanta. The violence out there, the physical altercations.
Adrienne Lawrence: There’s about a quarter of Asian Americans, and about 20% of Black Americans, saying that they’re fearing that someone might threaten or physically attack them, and this is more than the shares of experiences that white and Hispanic Americans have reported since the coronavirus outbreak. We also want to bear in mind what this looks like in workplaces. Though even before the pandemic, Asians comprised about 6.2% of the overall US labor market, and also happened to be the fastest growing and most diverse racial group in the country. But they’re the least likely, among all races, to be in leadership executive roles, especially Asian women. There were always a problem, but now things have gotten even worse.
Adrienne Lawrence: We have unemployment, Asian American unemployment. Those rates have increased by more than 450%. That’s from February to June 2020, just looking at that small window. It’s a greater rate of increase than any other racial group. We have to ask ourselves, why is that? We can look at that anti-Asian bias that is going around. Also, Asian Americans have reported experiencing, already, the bias in applying for jobs, as well as getting equal pay and promotion. These things have long existed. Yet, when we look at who are the essential medical workers, there are approximately two million Asian Americans. That’s a higher proportion than their share of the US population. They’re putting themselves at risk as frontline and essential workers, particularly in medical fields.
Adrienne Lawrence: We also want to look at what are the costs of hate? Because hey, everything has a cost, and the business costs are real. When we talk about toxic workers, people are willing to forgo eight percent of their earnings just to avoid working with another race or ethnicity. That’s a lot of money. If, what, you’re making $100,000, that’s about $8,000 just to have to sit next to someone or interact with someone who doesn’t look like you? This is from a research study by the American Economic Association. Hate is very real. As I mentioned, it’s costly. When it comes to avoiding toxic workers, the Harvard Business School found that even though these toxic workers tend to be more productive than the average worker, that they gravitate towards using unethical means, and they adversely impact those around them.
Adrienne Lawrence: So, they essentially make it more problematic for net profitability. These workers out here, who are engaging in harassment, discrimination, they’re more costly. Avoiding a toxic worker generates nearly twice the amount of the returns of simply hiring a high-performing superstar. There is a lot there when it comes to saving money, but it’s all about identifying the toxic workers and moving them out of the workplace, because companies lose approximately $27,800 in productivity per harassed employee. But harassed employees, they generally don’t hang around. They’re six and a half times more likely than others to leave the job. Not only is there a loss in human capital while they’re there, likely, trying to avoid their harasser, or feeling less positive moral because they’re facing bias, they’re also more likely to be shopping for another job. That’s turnover cost.
Adrienne Lawrence: Why lose in the investment because people aren’t necessarily getting rid of that bias and the discrimination angle? The thing is, we can do that and we can do it together, but we have to stop and ask ourselves, where can we make change? Michelle, in talking more about making change, what do you think is the most important thing people can do right now to combat the anti-Asian American sentiment?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. That’s a really great question, Adrienne. Something that we have been talking about is a lot of folks have been asking us this question. Right? What is that one thing that we can be doing right now? A lot of us are in different stages of this journey. I do want to advocate that it is really important to continue the education piece, and really learning about why these issues are happening, because violence against Asian Americans are not new. It has always existed since the Asian American experience in history has existed. So, really diving into the historical context as to why these things are happening, whether it’s scapegoated for issues perpetuated by sexism, xenophobia, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism. There’s a lot that really plays into this.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: What we’re seeing most recently, too, they’re not isolated incidents. These things have always happened. So, there are incredible organizations out here that are addressing local initiatives, also national initiatives, as well. Really looking into these organizations, what kind of services that they provide, and if those specific services or things that they are addressing really speak to you, finding out ways that you can support them.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. It sounds like, definitely, getting out there, getting educated, and finding organizations that are working toward change, and supporting them, goes a long way. Something you said about this anti-Asian bias not being new, why do you think that it hasn’t necessarily been brought up to the forefront until now?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yes. I think that there are many reasons behind that. Something that we have been talking about most recently is this idea of … I’m sure most of you have heard of the model minority myth. Right? But something we’ve been learning about is really talking about the perpetual foreigner myth. What that means is perpetual foreigner continues to create this dialogue and this notion that Asian Americans are considered as the other, that we are not part of the society, we don’t necessarily belong here. This notion, and just this idea of seeing us as the other, can actually be very harmful. It is oftentimes reasons why we aren’t considered in certain dialogue.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. I have definitely seen that play out, as well. It can be very, very dangerous, because there are micro-aggressions, biases, slights, and as we’re seeing now, actual physical aggression and violence that goes on. That is very problematic. We did get a question in. So, I’d love to go ahead and address that. I’d love to get your thoughts, as well, on this, Michelle. Someone has asked, what could HR departments in the workplace do, whether it be checking in with Asian staff members or taking the temperature for everyone and seeing how they’re doing? What would you recommend?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. That’s a really great question. I, myself, haven’t been in the workplace for quite some time. So, maybe this is a learning opportunity for me, as well, on how to specifically address this. I’ve been an entrepreneur for some time now. I think checking in with individuals, and even having just honest conversations, or even intimate town hall meetings to really get a pulse on how people are feeling. Our community right now, we’re going through a bunch of different types of emotions. Right? I think being able to have this honest conversation, and making sure that there is a safe space to talk about this, and that we are being helped, I think, would be really, really important moving forward.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. I agree. I think checking in with people, and the team at-large, not necessarily just Asian team members. I say that, in part, because I’ve noticed in my work, and also being experienced, a Black woman, that sometimes you don’t necessarily feel comfortable, because you don’t want to get someone in trouble or call someone out specifically. You don’t want to feel like you’re the problem. Sometimes, also, bystanders can be more likely to say something. For example, that is exactly what happened to me recently. I witnessed some anti-Asian bias and a slight going on, and I spoke up, because it bothers me considerably, because I may not be Asian, but I sure do not like bias and discrimination.
Adrienne Lawrence: Something that I also think is extraordinarily important, getting back to what Michelle said, is getting training sessions, listening sessions. I know JBC, I have sat in on listening sessions with team members to see how they feel, because having someone who’s not necessarily directly affiliated with your organization, or not someone you work with all the time, it can make them feel a little bit more comfortable to talk to an outside third party. Getting your finger on the pulse can go a long way to see how things are going, and maybe what training, education, or just community is needed. Thank you so much, Michelle, for filling in on that. I’m glad we got to address that subject.
Adrienne Lawrence: I also wanted to talk to you a little bit about, in the space of when it comes to bias, as we see with this incredible rise of anti-Asian sentiment going on, we know that women have been disproportionately targeted for it. Also, I know that you are a founder and the creative director of WEAREUPRISERS, a community-driven street wear brand that’s really rooted in amplifying impactful and authentic stories of the underrepresented. Being a woman in business, I’m sure you’ve experienced this hate, the shade at various levels. How would you describe that the anti-Asian American sentiment is directly impacting women, and what it feels like?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yes. Hate incidents against Asian Americans have rose nearly 150% in 2020. Asian American women are twice as likely to be targeted. So, within this past year, there’s an incredible nonprofit and data-compiling organization called Stop AAPI Hate. They have collected over 3,800 reports of anti-Asian hate over this past year. With that said, I can’t even imagine how many of this also exists in the workplace. Like you said, Adrienne, I have my own small business, which is what I’ve been working on outside of Hate Is A Virus, but starting off this entrepreneur journey back in 2016, I think there were microaggressions that I have also seen, even as an entrepreneur. Right?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: I think there was this notion of seeing this passion project that I had as, “Oh, this was only a side hobby,” or, “This is a side project.” I got a lot of comments of, “Oh, this is really cute. That’s so cute that you’re doing this.” These are comments that you question as to, “Oh, are these folks taking me seriously?” The industry that I’m in, whether it’s fashion, street wear, it’s very much a male-dominated industry. So, it took some time for even me to almost prove to myself, and also my peers, that I belong in this space.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. That sense of belonging, it can be difficult to achieve sometimes when you aren’t necessarily in a field that welcomes you, because it hasn’t necessarily seen people who look like you. That’s a difficult place, and I have definitely been there. Something that I found in my own research and studies, when I talk about the intersectionality of gender discrimination in the workplace and race, when it comes to particularly Asian American women, something that was interesting is that Asian women are more likely than women of other races to report being sexually harassed or marginalized because of their gender, by colleagues who are junior to them. That is not necessarily the case [crosstalk 00:29:41] Go ahead, Michelle.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Oh, I’m sorry. I was just commenting on that fact.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yeah. At a rate of 31%, whereas for white women, it’s about 15%, Latinas, 11%, and Black women, 22%. That is likely because of the microaggressions, biases, about Asian women being submissive, quiet, weak. So, individuals junior to them are more likely to engage in power plays with them that are because of, essentially, that intersectionality of gender and race. Michelle, have you seen things like this go on? How do you combat them?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. Addressing this, I think I can only speak from personal experience. There is this notion, or even my upbringing, of almost being told to stay quiet, and stay silent, and not cause any commotion in whatever environment you’re in. A really great example, too, is I’m very, very close with my grandmother. My grandmother lives with my parents. I’m here at home a lot, just taking care of her and just hanging out with her. When we first started Hate Is A Virus, and I was trying to explain to her why I was so passionate about this, why I felt like this needed to happen, it was very interesting for me to hear from my grandmother almost pushback on this idea, stating that, “Why is this necessary? Because you’re going to cause more chaos.”
Michelle K. Hanabusa: It’s very interesting. Right? I think when you start hearing this from family members, or you’re being taught to just continue to just keep your head down, not say anything, and just work hard, that can translate through generations and through what we’re seeing in the workplace.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yeah. It can be a little bit disheartening, too, because the thought that you should essentially just entertain the oppression, or endure it, or tolerate it, when no, I’m not a fan of that, speaking out can make a difference, and pushing for change.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adrienne Lawrence: Thank you so much. Apparently, people really like the stat that I gave earlier about Asian women being more likely than women of other races to report being sexually harassed by colleagues who are junior to them. That’s at a rate of 31%. That’s compared to white women, which is 15%, Latinas, 11%, and Black women, 22%. The source of that is the Center for Talent Innovation. That was their research report from 2018. I talk about these intersectional issues in my book, Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment, and addressing, essentially, how this gender discrimination and this intersectionality when it comes to different racial groups, and also the tropes, the microaggressions, the biases, and what they look like, and how they play out.
Adrienne Lawrence: We also did get a question about any suggestions about how to unearth racism or bias during an interview process and hiring. From my own experience, I can find that can be very difficult, but it is also very much a matter of paying attention to how someone speaks and how they frame things about individuals, concepts, thoughts. But because, oftentimes, people don’t necessarily even recognize the racial bias that they themselves hold, it can be difficult to recognize it in another. Something you can do is learn more about it, and be educated more about how it manifests, and what ideas you have in your mind that are a result of that subconscious bias that is living there and residing there at all times, that you think are facts because you’ve heard it so often. But what it is, is a reflection of bias.
Adrienne Lawrence: That’s something that I had experienced. As I’ve said in my trainings, I remember driving down the street here in LA, and someone cut me off. She happened to be an Asian woman. I automatically thought, “Ugh, Asian women can’t drive.” I caught myself. I’m like, “What? Where did that come from, Adrienne? What was that?” In thinking about it, because I’m like, “That’s incredibly biased against an entire group. Are you out of your mind,” but I thought, “You know what? That’s living in my subconscious because of all of the jokes that were told in the ’90s that made that a running dialogue, myth.” I know Jay Leno had a good time with that bias, and how those start to frame up in our minds, and we start thinking that they’re facts, or that they’re just running back there when, no, it’s bias. So, Michelle, I guess how would you approach something like that? How do you find that that impacts people, when they have that a-ha moment?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. Adrienne, thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing that. These thoughts in our consciousness, they might still exist. It’s a really, really great skill, or even the fact that you are able to stop yourself and step back and be like, “Wow. I just thought about that. How can I continue to dismantle that?” Right? Adrienne, I’m so sorry. What was the question?
Adrienne Lawrence: When people have that a-ha moment, have you found in terms of how you respond to that, and also maybe ways to get people to have that a-ha moment?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. That’s a really great question. I think we, especially within the AAPI community, we are still trying to unpack all of this, because this dialogue, and this notion of us rising up together, and talking about this in such a public setting is very, very new to us. A lot of us are first-gen, second-generation, and I think it is very important to continue to create safe spaces to have this dialogue, because it can be very heavy. It can be pretty evasive, too. It’s important to call people out, but not in such an aggressive way. Right? Maybe have these conversations of, “Why have you thought this way? What makes you think this way?”
Michelle K. Hanabusa: I think a lot of times, even in my personal experience, when I have begun to speak out on those things, you can see this reaction of, “Oh, my gosh. I actually did say that,” or, “This is something that I have heard my entire life. I just assumed.” So, I always like to say to come from more of a compassion place of trying to see it as we are all growing. We are all in this journey together. How can I continue to have this conversation with you, and also realize that what you said can eventually be very, very harmful for our community at-large?
Adrienne Lawrence: Absolutely. We all know that we wouldn’t want to be generalized, and to be pigeonholed, with this thought that we are, or we are not. I know I don’t care for it. We are all individuals. Having and recognizing that everyone is different, as opposed to trying to apply one trait to them, it goes a long way. Thank you so much for sharing that. Also, I’ve had experiences where even bias from anti-Blackness bias … For example, there was an organization I was volunteering with, where we work with children who are on the autism spectrum, generally more severe. They assign you with a child to play with for the day. I was assigned a Chinese girl, Chinese American, and I automatically thought, “Oh, my goodness. She’s not going to like me,” because I’m thinking of the trope of, “Oh, she’s not going to like me,” despite having plenty of Asian friends, having lived with a Chinese family. I even speak some Chinese, but I still was internalizing this sense of bias and this sense of fear.
Adrienne Lawrence: It turned out to be just the opposite. That little girl would not let me go. I remember her parents, they did not speak English, but they had a translator there. She had said they’ve never seen her interact with someone of that level. So, it was one of those eye-opening … I was entirely wrong. It changes a lot. Despite having come from all this background, where I have had extensive experience and also closeness with my Asian brothers and sisters, I was still holding this bias, and was afraid about this bridge that could be built. I guess, what would you suggest to people who are living in that space, where they do have fears of, “Maybe somebody’s not going to like me,” because of the racist tropes that have been playing out? What would you suggest to them in terms of building bridges and becoming a closer ally?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yes. Adrienne, was this thought that you had, was this from a personal experience that you’ve had in the past?
Adrienne Lawrence: Nope. Just from things that we hear in society, that, “Oh, this little girl is not going to like me.”
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I think ally-ship, and when we say there needs to be more solidarity building, I think that is such a key component that all communities, all identities, must continue to work towards. It’s not just what’s going on right now within the Asian community, to just stay within our circle and just work with each other. It’s really important for us to continue this dialogue outside of our communities, and figure out ways to work together, and also find commonalities of why these issues are so intersected. Yeah. I definitely hear you. I think Tammy and I, when it comes to Hate Is A Virus, that is definitely something that we are really actively working towards, is solidarity building.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yeah. I think that has been a very powerful thing, because we got to see that, unfortunately, play out right around the time of the shootings in Atlanta, this thought that the Black community and the Asian community, almost pitting the communities against one another, and this thought that we don’t like one another, as opposed to, no, we are all together as one. Having that unification, building that solidarity, is so incredibly important. That’s something that really encouraged me to go ahead and reach out and say, “Hey, can we do something here?” With JBC’s resources, focus, and also message, it just seemed to align with Hate Is A Virus, and to make this change.
Adrienne Lawrence: Jumping back to women, because someone had a question largely dedicated to this, which is such an important issue. Wondering, any suggestions for how to respectfully address the Asian sexualization stereotype in the workplace, when it comes to women? Because as we saw, that was an underpinning of the issues, and why that young man had shot up, essentially, the spas in Atlanta. What’s a good way to, hey, nudge this, to address these hyper-sexualization issues?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. So, because I’m not an expert in the workplace, I would love to, I guess, hear that from you, as well, Adrienne. I can address this more in a general context, especially as to what has been going on these past few weeks, especially addressing what happened in Atlanta recently. One of the reasons, too, as I’ve addressed before, is this idea of this perpetual foreigner myth. Right? We are seen as the other. We are being dehumanized through this, and unfortunately, when it comes to these lower wage jobs and environments, it actually puts them more in this vulnerable space of being harmed.
Adrienne Lawrence: Absolutely. As far as the sexualization goes, as I mention in my book, Staying in the Game, what I do is I break it down per racial group, and even when there’s an intersection there of, maybe just, you call it Brown. Because the thing is, we have these stereotypes, because people don’t necessarily know what racial group you may be a part of, and so, they’re just operating off what they see. What we’ve found in the research is that when it comes to Asian women, they are stereotyped as either something of the dragon lady, this thought that, “I will get over on you,” or at-all-cost mentality, or this submissive geisha. That often comes with a sexualization.
Adrienne Lawrence: The way in which to address it is largely to call it out, to identify it. Because the thing is, we’ve internalized these messages from what we’ve seen in media, television, Hollywood. All of these things have been subliminally implanted in our mind. For example, that gentleman who was the shooter, how he said, “Oh, no. It wasn’t racism. It was a sexual issue.” He may not fully appreciate that he is sexualizing and hyper-sexualizing Asian women. That’s largely because of how they’ve been portrayed in media, in Hollywood, and in our dialogue. So, the way you can address that is by having conversations, by having trainings, helping people understand that this is what this is, that this right here is a stereotype, it is a bias, and this is how it manifests.
Adrienne Lawrence: So, when people can say, “Oh, that’s what that is. That, that’s operating in the back of my head, that’s not a fact. That’s not something that is backed up. That’s a stereotype playing out. When I do this, that is a form of a microaggression. That’s a bias.” Helping people understand and see that, have it brought to the forefront of their consciousness, so they can identify it and hopefully, curb their behavior, is the best way in which to go about it. Again, until we are able to confront it, to bring it from that subconscious to the conscious, then we can’t do anything until we’re able to identify it, and we know what it is.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yes. Absolutely. That’s why we are so excited to be partnering with you on these series and these trainings that’s going to happen later this month. I think what makes me very hopeful, too, is that last year, I think folks … The majority of audiences, at least within our social media, that we were able to build up, was around raising awareness. Right? We were trying to expand on the education side and go past raising awareness. However, I’m not sure if the majority of folks were ready for that. This year is totally different. I think now we’re moving into this education, trainings. How can we actually take more action now? I think that’s why I’m very excited to be partnering with you.
Adrienne Lawrence: Yes. I agree. It has been quite the evolution. Most definitely. It seems that since we had the Me Too Movement, October 2017, where a lot of just wrong that is perpetuated against women, particularly in professional spaces, was addressed, and then unfortunately, with the death of George Floyd, we saw a, really, onset of conversations, and marches, and pushes to discuss the fact that Black and Brown bodies are treated differently. Now, with this movement, and conversations we need to have about the anti-Asian sentiment, these things are long overdue, but it seems that we are in this wave of change, and bringing those conversations to professional spaces is important, because they are playing out in our society, and hey, workplaces are just a microcosm of the larger community, society, as a whole.
Adrienne Lawrence: Having these conversations, understanding, and really exploring them and how we can all get better, because as the research shows, we know that focusing on diversity and uplifting it has a significant financial impact, gain, and there’s so much value there. So, I know it definitely goes a long way. I know we only have a few minutes left. I’d love to talk with you more about the work Hate Is A Virus is currently doing. I know we are partnering together for these upcoming trainings. That’ll be April 19th and 22nd, which will be great in terms of addressing anti-Asian sentiments in professional spaces when it comes to microaggression, biases, and how to combat them. What else, also, is Hate Is A Virus involved in?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Yeah. So, just to reiterate what Hate Is A Virus is, we are a nonprofit community of mobilizers and amplifiers to dismantle racism and all forms of hate. Our goal here, because I like to call this we are bridging the gap. Right? There are incredible community organizers, and grassroots organizations, and national organizations who have been doing this work for decades. They have been building solidarity. They have been addressing these issues for so long. They are really on the ground doing the work actively, on the daily. So, you might not see them as active on social media or what not.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: Then we have access to, I guess, the amplifiers. Right? Folks who are very passionate about this. They might have larger platforms who want to help out, but not necessarily doing this type of work day in and day out. So, we are really concentrated on how we can bridge these conversations, so that we can, ultimately, get to the goal that we want to get to. So, our latest initiative that we launched with our community action fund is to raise one million dollars to give back to local and national organizations who are providing pivotal services and programs for our various communities. A lot of times, the grant process of receiving funding to continue your work and what not takes a very, very long time. Even just filling out these applications are pretty intensive.
Michelle K. Hanabusa: So, our goal here is to be able to rapidly provide grants to these local and national organizations on a more common basis, so that they can continue to do their groundwork, and they get to continue to do the necessary things that are happening on a local and national level. So, the initiative has already launched. We are nearing, actually, half a million to our goal right now. So, we will be releasing soon about our advisory council, who we have brought on to really guide us in terms of what local and national organizations we’ll be giving back to, the amounts necessary for each of them, and then how we can distribute them, as well. That is our latest initiative. Even regarding what recently happened in Atlanta, we were able to provide grants out to various organizations. You can actually read about them and learn all of the initiatives that they do on our social media.
Adrienne Lawrence: Fantastic. Where are you on social media, as well as what’s your website?
Michelle K. Hanabusa: We are at @hateisavirus on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and we are about to start a campaign within TikTok, as well, to continue more on the educational side of things. Our website is hateisavirus.org.
Adrienne Lawrence: Awesome. Thank you so much, Michelle. I appreciate you joining us. I will go ahead and pass it on back to Mrs. Jennifer Brown.
Jennifer Brown: Oh, excellent. Excellent, excellent. I just am grinning from ear to ear. I think I can’t wait to go back and research everything that you all shared and brought. In the conversations I’m listening to for my own education, there’s so much appreciation, Michelle and Adrienne, for you and the way that you dialogued today. Thank you. Michelle, congratulations on your work. We’ve got a bunch more fans from today. So, expect your LinkedIn to blow up, in a good way. We’re just very appreciative. I want to give our verbal acknowledgement to both of these amazing leaders and voices in a moment, just to say thank you for everything you’re doing. Thank you for doing this today. We value you. I cherish you. Adrienne and Michelle, thank you so much.
Jennifer Brown: Hi. This is Jennifer. Do you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
Doug Foresta: You’ve been listening to The Will To Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity & Inclusion, with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening. We’ll be back next time with a new episode.
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