In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we asked Laura Chu Stokes, a first-generation Chinese American, to share her thoughts on how nonprofits can uplift the voices and perspectives of Asian Americans.
A pianist and music educator, Laura has taught hundreds of students through her work as an adjunct faculty member, within her independent studio, and as a director and group instructor. Laura has performed as a staff accompanist and collaborative artist, performing with the Columbus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras.
Laura’s insight and experiences speak to the need for greater engagement of the Asian American community, especially within the nonprofit sector. Together, we can ensure AAPI inclusivity is a priority.
— Mollard Consulting
When I was growing up in Clintonville on the north side of Columbus, it never occurred to me that I was different. I asked my father — a Chinese History professor at The Ohio State University — why schoolmates would often taunt me with their sing-song chants of ‘ching-chong’ and pull the corners of their eyes upwards to indicate slanted-eyes.
He said, “There will always be people who don’t understand why we don’t look like them, but you must move forward and stay true to yourself.”
Decades later, I am coming to understand the meaning of his words.
With the uptick of attacks on the Asian American community, particularly over the past year and a half, it is hard to continually stomach that individuals are targeted simply by how they look based on the assumption that they are somehow responsible for COVID-19.
These gross assumptions that foster pain are not dissimilar to how Muslims may have felt after 9/11 and is certainly not new to the Black community nor any other marginalized community members that have suffered from overt racism and microaggressions for far too long.
Within the nonprofit community, including Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI/API) voices and perspectives is critically important in determining what best serves clients and audiences moving forward. To guide this work, Dr. Anthony S. Chow, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro and the founder of the University of North Carolina Asian Pacific Islander Caucus (UNC-APIC), states these important considerations:
- Help stand up against anti-Asian sentiment and push back against the minority myth that puts APIs in an absurdly incorrect and hurtful place where it is implied that Asian-Americans are a monolithic stereotype of academically gifted, geeky, weak, and shy. This characterization is inaccurate and increases the conflict with other minority groups, expressed with increased anti-Asian actions due to COVID-19. The API community has the most diverse socioeconomic range of any racial group as seen in the model minority myth and is the largest, most diverse minority group in the nation. APIs, represented by more than 20 different nationalities, should be offered the same types of assistance as other minority groups.
- APIs are the only race where the majority of their offenders are from different races (27% Black, 24.1% White, and 24.1% API) according to a 2018 Department of Justice Crimes Report (See table 14 on page 13). These statistics show a longitudinal trend of violence occurring against APIs from other races.
- The API community is the only racial group where youth suicide is the leading cause of death among those who are ages 15-19 (CDC report page 165). The leading preventative factor is acceptance from peers. As many youths can attest, being harassed, discriminated, and bullied at an early age has lasting effects. If Americans continue to treat and subject APIs as perpetual foreigners, our youth may develop negative opinions of themselves as they are inundated with negative images about themselves or their parents, friends, and relatives.
- Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial demographic among all racial and ethnic groups in the United States between 2000 and 2019, or approximately 80% growth, according to the Pews Research Center. This significant leap in population will lead to greater consumption of goods and services by APIs, particularly in the arts, education, and entertainment.
With greater understanding comes the expectation of more inclusive actions and wider representation of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to a close, opening up the channels of engagement and opportunity with the AAPI/API community is more essential today than ever before.
Through their individual missions, my hope is that nonprofits will make the long-term commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work that improves the quality of life for Asian Americans and continues the work of organizations such as the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund.
Article by: Laura Chu Stokes, NCTM