Making Cents Of The Senseless

Fri, 2021-02-12

The recent spate of senseless violence against Asian American seniors in the Bay Area wearily reminds us that the re-surfacing of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic last year remains intact. Unfortunately, we have seen this elsewhere in the country time and again, where violence of this nature is not confined to a geographic region. We join the voices in philanthropy and beyond that have already spoken out about these recent attacks, against the backdrop of more than 2,800 documented incidents of anti-Asian hate over the past year and an even longer litany of anti-Asian violence dating back to the earliest days of this nation. Here are some out of the starting gate:

We also encourage more of us to speak out because we know that silence can be deafening. And because we are all eager to turn the page on the pandemic and transform the scourge of anti-Black racism into a profoundly different vision based on love not hate, hope not despair, we write this statement as an invitation to practice the “calling card” of our philanthropic sector - the love of humanity.

How can we, in the philanthropic sector, summon new energy toward a vibrant democracy that calls us all to our fullest human potential?

  • Strongly repudiate violence against Asian American communities. Asian people have died. Let’s not allow the stereotype that Asians are quiet and harmonious to justify apathy towards loss of human life. We cannot merely shake our heads, normalize, or look past this. We can all raise our voices (especially Asian people to disrupt the internalization of “model minority”) - individually, institutionally, and at the community level. And there’s even more we can do.
  • Care about AAPI people, not just when we are attacked. Did you know that Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students have the highest college attrition rates of any ethnic sub-group in the AAPI community or that 38 percent of Hmong Americans have less than a high school degree? And for the few who make it to college, they are often assumed to be part of the mythical "model minority" and excluded from accessing necessary supports.
  • Actively seek to live in the nuanced and complex. This recent set of attacks has the makings of pitting Asians against Blacks, but as a sector, philanthropy should be long past this trap. Today is Lunar New Year which occurs during Black History Month. Let’s honor and build on cross-racial efforts that have strengthened rather than divided this nation along racial lines. Prime examples of solidarity across our communities are familiar names like Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, Larry Itliong, as well as many whose names are never recognized nor memorialized. Better yet, let’s remember that racial categories were constructed to benefit white supremacy. Let’s instead write a new philanthropic playbook that generously supports rather than continues to reinforce the historical and compounded victimization and marginalization of non-White communities. 
  • Include AAPI organizations in your grantmaking portfolio, centering those most impacted. Are you aware that foundation support for AAPI communities is alarmingly low (How low? Stay tuned for our research report on this in the coming months), even though Asian Americans represent the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. electorate? No racial equity strategy can be fully successful without the intentional inclusion of AAPIs. All non-white people are significantly impacted by white supremacy which is still very much alive (and literally kicking as we’ve witnessed at the Capitol).

These are a few starting points for philanthropy to address rampant anti-Asian racism. The lessons we learned this past year from COVID-19, the economic crisis, the racial reckoning and clarity about anti-Blackness, anti-Asian hostility (which stems from anti-Blackness), and the erosion of democracy are paid with blood. Let’s truly make cents out of the senseless by ensuring that our philanthropic responses are worth their weight in gold.

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