How PR professionals can help the AAPI community
Updated: Mar 25
As PR professionals, it is our duty to put our best foot forward for ourselves, our clients, and most importantly, our publics. Some members of our communities are being unjustly targeted for hate crimes and discrimination, and we cannot stand idly by. We must act, and we must educate ourselves and others.
The History We Must Face
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has been victim to hate and discrimination for countless years in the U.S., going back to the immigration booms in the 1800s and 1900s. Immigration sparked many moments of racism and discrimination in the U.S. Nina Strochlic of National Geographic writes of how in the 1880s it was known as “yellow peril,” and in the 1900s, there was the “dusky peril.”
In the momentum of the railroad and Westward expansion, the Asian community was largely extorted for labor while being discriminated against through racial slurs, segregation practices, and laws that limited the power Asian Americans could garner. The AAPI community was restricted from being witnesses in court, voting, and becoming citizens in the U.S. during the gold rush and railroad expansion. In 1882 the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. According to Immigration Direct, the Act “banned new Chinese workers from entering the United States and prevented Chinese immigrants who were already in the U.S. from becoming citizens.”
Wars brought new waves of discrimination and mistreatment as well. Japanese Americans were detained during WWII while racial slur usage and anti-Asian sentiments continued to increase during WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. When there was a conflict, the “Us versus Them” mentality overtook when there should have been a “We” mentality.
In the last few years, the escalation of AAPI violence could be attributed to the rise in scapegoating China for the U.S. economic deficit and China being blamed for the lives lost and measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the main target is China, these claims are overgeneralized to apply to the whole AAPI community. The hate spreads, and it is as inaccurate as it is unjustified.
Just this last week, eight people, six of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor killings. Those lost were named in an NBC report as Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Yue, 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Although the suspect's motives are still under investigation, the rampage occurred after months of news reports about attacks against Asian-Americans for the coronavirus pandemic.
The organization Stop AAPI Hate recently announced that there were 3,765 reported instances of hate crimes, harassment and civil rights violations in the U.S. between Mar. 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021. But these self-reports are not all that has occurred in the last year. PEW research reports that since the outbreak began — which was termed the “China-virus” by many — about a third (31%) of Asian American adults have been subjected to racial slurs or jokes.
The Way Forward
As PR professionals, we must connect with both our internal teams and our external publics. We have a duty to let others know that we are there for them. We must listen. We must support. We must speak up. We must act. We are in a position to spread awareness, distribute resources, provide support, and uplift others.
Stop AAPI Hate shares amazing tips on what to consider when experiencing hate and how to help if you witness it. There should be no room for hate; let’s stop AAPI hate together.
By James Noonan
James Noonan was born and raised in “sunny” San Diego. His focus on supporting communities and their people stems from his background as a registrar and board member for the Tierrasanta region of the American Youth Soccer Organization. Noonan received two associate degrees during his time at San Diego Miramar Community College and is attending San Diego State University to receive his bachelor's degree in Public Relations. Noonan sees himself in 10 years working as a community organizer to help raise the voices of others and spread awareness of social issues.