As the news surrounding COVID-19, or “coronavirus”, continues to flood the web and our screens, our sector springs into action to protect the safety and well-being of our employees, colleagues, and grantee partners. Philanthropy is asking important questions: Should we limit travel or leave it to individual discretion? Should we extend work-from-home options or find other alternatives to limit potential exposure? How are grantees faring? Do we need to deploy rapid response grants to communities who have little to no options of protecting themselves from potential exposure? These are important questions the sector must address to ensure that our long-term, strategic work is not thrown off course by the disruptions associated with coronavirus; and even better, to use this moment to take stock of the overall environment and its implications for grantmaking (content and form).
Prevailing winds sweep in a whiff of hysteria, with constant updates from mass media and a surplus of misinformation. This has led to a sharp rise in racist and xenophobic actions directed at individuals with Asian heritage. Already, there are videos circulating on social media showing young adults harassing and even assaulting innocent, unassuming Asian people in public spaces who justify their actions by claiming to protect themselves from the virus or even go so far as to “cleanse” Asians of the virus. Even the children of our colleagues, as young as those in kindergarten, have been bullied by their classmates calling them “coronavirus”. As the central hub for AAPIs in philanthropy to build community, AAPIP is working to ensure that AAPI philanthrofolk are in supportive environments free from micro-aggressions or underlying tones of racism and xenophobia within our institutions and beyond.
Put simply, it is important to quell any resurfacing of insidious “Yellow Peril” narratives we thought were decades past us. While the origin of COVID-19 has been traced to China, let’s be clear that the virus is not “race-based.” It is transmitted through person-to-person contact despite misguided claims that Chinese people contracted the virus in “unsanitary” food markets or from eating “dirty” food. The practice of wearing surgical masks by (although not limited to) Chinese and Chinese Americans as a precautionary measure is now interpreted as symptomatic rather than preventative, re-igniting xenophobic and racist sentiments of Chinese people as diseased, barbaric, and to be avoided at all costs. The paranoia about the virus and its false association with Asians severely impacts Chinatowns and other Asian businesses across the United States, threatening the livelihoods of communities already facing economic hardship. Just as the virus does not discriminate, racial and gender discrimination never take sick days. Indeed, xenophobia and racism is perhaps spreading even more quickly than the virus itself, and like it or not, the field of philanthropy is not exempt.
As philanthropy, and the rest of the world, for that matter, adjust to a new virus environment, along with lots of other realities, AAPIP has compiled a short list of recommended articles and resources about COVID-19. You have undoubtedly read quite a few already and we recognize that your organization’s course of action will be based on particular circumstances and the resources available.
We hope that as part of your actions, you can partner with AAPIP in the following ways:
- Proactively remind ourselves and others around us not to project fears of the virus onto marginalized groups or spread unfounded associations. People of Chinese heritage or those who look East Asian are not genetically predisposed to carry or spread the disease.
- Reach out to grantees in impacted communities. And if you don’t have any grantees whose work is focused specifically within AAPI communities (not necessarily exclusively Chinese), reach out to an AAPIP Chapter near you.
- Pay extra attention to employees and communities who have limited or no access to work-from-home options or paid sick leave. Prevention and intervention strategies are not always equitably distributed in the office and beyond, and we also know that economic disparities tend to cut along racial and gender lines.
Remember that our health is strengthened by our humanity and our best allies are common sense and good will. These are the best remedies that heal us all.