The recent Atlanta shooting spree, which resulted in the killing of eight people, including six Asian women, has swung the door wide-open on an issue that has yet to receive enough attention.

Anti-Asian racism is not new. In fact, a statement issued by a number of Canadian interest groups, including the Chinese Canadian National Council’s (CCNC) Toronto Chapter said, “What happened in Atlanta is not an isolated incident, but a horrific example of a large rising tide of anti-Asian racism.” This statement didn’t just imply – it stated clearly – that anti-Asian sentiment, behaviour, and crime is as much a Canadian problem as is reported on in the US.

The data is staggering.

In the US:

  • Stop A.A.P.I. Hate, a non-profit organization that formed near the beginning of the pandemic to track discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, has received nearly thirty-eight hundred reports of incidents ranging from verbal harassment to physical assault.
  • In a survey of several police departments, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, at California State University, San Bernardino, tallied a hundred and twenty-two anti-Asian hate crimes across sixteen American cities in 2020, up from forty-nine in 2019.

In Canada:

  • According to data from Fight COVID Racism, there have been 891 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes across Canada as of mid-day March 17. 
  • In a report released by Statistics Canada in July 2020, the agency wrote that the proportion of visible minorities who experienced an increase in harassment or attacks based on their race, ethnicity, or skin colour has tripled compared to the rest of the population since the start of the pandemic, however, the largest increase was seen among people from these communities:
    • Chinese – up 30.4%
    • Korean – up 27.0%
    • Southeast Asian – up 19.3%
    • Filipino – up 15.5%
    • Japanese – up 15.3%
  • Vancouver saw a 717% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes from 2019 to 2020, according to a report released by the Vancouver Police Department.

What can HR Professionals do?

While the HR profession is making incredible strides to bring issues of equity, inclusion, diversity, and anti-racism to the centre of organizational policy and practice, we need to continue to ask ourselves ‘Are we doing enough? Are we asking the right questions? What else can be done?’

We can start by speaking in less generic and more specific terms, taking the time to celebrate different cultures, while also seeking to understand and acknowledge the struggles of each on their own. 

We must acknowledge the specific targeted groups impacted by the forces of anti-Asian racism, anti-Black racism, anti-Islamic hate, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ+ phobia, and so on. 

Adding this necessary specificity humanizes the victims, makes each community feel included, and better targets the behaviours that require change.

As a Profession, we must continue to advance our efforts to:

  • Open up communications channels for those who experience or witness racism, hate, and hate crimes.
  • Provide training and educational opportunities so behaviour can be identified, named, and called-out.
  • Develop clear policies, procedures, and consequences for behaviour that is not representative of cultural values.
  • Hire diverse talent.
  • Start from the top to ensure CEOs, executive teams, and Boards state the organization’s stance against racism and are clear that these behaviours will not be tolerated.
  • Work with third-party experts to provide supports and additional training.
  • We can also advocate for our teams by providing them with support tools should they face racism outside of the work environment.

The HR profession is perfectly situated to take a stand and move forward together against anti-Asian racism and discrimination.

Thank you,