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Have You Ever Asked?

by Deborah Rinner, VP, Chief Learning Officer, Tero International

Prejudice and discrimination begin early on in life-a California student survey found nearly a fourth of students across grades have reported being harassed or bullied at school due to their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. As a result, everyone has likely experienced or witnessed these behaviors at some point in time.

Throughout the months of dealing head on with Covid-19, there has been public discrimination toward Asian Americans. It didn't make the news each night as the deaths, lack of PPE and the pandemic took precedence, but it was and is newsworthy.

In an article for the New York Times titled "The Slur I Never Expected to Hear in 2020," author Cathy Park Hong first noticed the incidents targeting Asians across the globe. A group of teenagers attacked a Singaporean man in London shouting at him about the Coronavirus. An Italian Bank denied doing business with a Chinese woman.

And then it showed up in the U. S. A Texan cut a Burmese American family in what the FBI called a hate crime. That was just the beginning.

Hong began keeping a tab of the incidents and there have been many in the U.S. An Asian mom was in a park and other mothers screamed to their kids to get away from her. A teenage boy kicked a 59 year old Asian man in the back. A woman punched an Asian woman in the subway. The Burmese American boy whose family was targeted early on was released from the hospital with stiches from the back of his head to his eyebrow. The list of incidents goes on. 650 incidents were reported in one week to the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council.

Hong relates that it isn't just the threat of the virus that Asian Americans have to fear. It is the threat of being the target of a hate crime, the victim of someone's fear. Hong says as an Asian American woman she often felt invisible to others. Now in the time of this virus she feels hyper visible.

Although we might all have felt or experienced some type of discrimination, if we are not of a minority culture, our experiences are different. We more often don't recognize and can be unconscious to what our fellow citizens who are a targeted minority are experiencing. We might even have to challenge xenophobic thoughts that lie deep within us, remnants of messages of fear from distant times that never did make sense or honor humanity.

Have you ever talked with someone about their experiences with prejudice? All too often the subject and experiences remain shuttered. I am thankful Cathy Park Hong spoke out in her article. And I wonder, would I have thought to ask her, if she were a neighbor, friend or co-worker what this time was like for her?

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