An open letter by Josh Chi, Head of Media & Strategy at OMG Unite
Those who know me will probably know that I am someone who doesn’t always express my view loudly, however this is a time when I do feel like my background might help bring a perspective to yet another ongoing issue – and hopefully make a difference.
As an East Asian from Taiwan who has been living in the UK for more than 10 years, there are many stories from fellow Asians on the aggressions that they have faced. The situation in the UK may be different from the US, and we know people from other cultural and religious backgrounds are often facing similar or worse aggressions, even in a very multicultural London but these are all something to be addressed.
Working at OMG Unite, Omnicom Media Group’s diversity marketing division, I come across client questions, do research and give advice to topics relating to ethnicity, religion, gender, LGBTQ+, disability and the intersections every day. I’m also privileged to be involved in several social change / comms projects that are led by leading charities, brands and the Government. Several of these are to address issues that stem from the same root causes – discrimination and inequality. These experiences make me more aware of the issue that we are facing…
So what is #StopAsianHate and is it relevant in the UK?
In short, many people of Asian descent have been suffering from various types of aggressions or hate crimes around the world. While there are several high-profile incidents including the murder in Atlanta in the US recently, it is also ongoing and prevalent in the UK – for all genders but especially for Asian women who may regularly face dehumanisation. While I like to think that the situation in the UK is marginally better than the US, at least we have not heard about eldery people being attacked, some recent chat with Asian female friends here has not made me feel any better. As an article in gal-dem by Siam Hatzaw has summarised well – Anti-Asian racism is its own particular brand of bigotry. The situation has become even worse since Covid-19 with Asians being scapegoated for the pandemic, especially with narratives like Kung Flu or China virus.
In the UK, there have been ongoing incidents especially since Brexit and Covid. Attacks took place even in London’s Oxford Street and police data indicated a 300% increase in hate crime reports from East and South East Asians in the first quarter of 2020. The concerns and fear among the Asian communities are common and valid. And the microaggressions that some people face daily are certainly not included in the numbers.
#StopAsianHate is a movement to raise awareness of the issue and provide support.
And how can people in our industry help?
Sad to see there is no lack of occasions that we need to continue to drive awareness of the issues and support those who suffer in recent news. In the case of #StopAsianHate, there are various great articles outlining what needs to happen. To summarise and if I can quote Gemma Chen, : We need to stop the dehumanisation of Asians. We need to stop the scapegoating of Asians for Covid. We need to unite against all forms of hate.
However, for people in our industry who work in creative and comms, there are more ways for us to facilitate long term and positive change. These are relevant not just for stopping Asian hate, but for stopping hate in general:
- Celebrate difference in your team – Ensure diversity in your team and that you have someone who can offer different perspectives. Grow diverse talents within your organisation and ensure diversity / role models in the leadership team as well.
- Challenge stereotypes in your work – the creative work that our industry creates can set the tone for society. We can help influence what is cool and what is not. Ensuring positive representation and challenging negative stereotypes in our creative output is a good start. It helps normalise differences and can even help drive social cohesion.
To understand how this might work, try to imagine how Henry Golding may have changed the dating life of some East Asian men by being the lead characters in Hollywood and British love stories – Be it Last Christmas or Monsoon.
- Show empathy and support – Know how to support your colleagues who may be less outspoken about the issues they face. Stop the racist humour and ethnic jokes. They are really not funny when you realise how people are suffering from them. If you come across someone being affected, even by a verbal micro aggression, don’t be a silent witness – those who face aggressions may decide not to respond themselves. Can you step in and express that what was said or done is not socially acceptable? Or perhaps ask a simple and friendly ‘Are you ok?’ to the person who has just experienced aggression. Two simple steps to help them feel less isolated.
Just like #BlackLivesMatter, #YouAintNoMuslimBruv and many others important challenges that we are all facing together – In order to get everyone to understand the issue, we need more people (and not just Asians) talking about it. A quick Google search will show that there are some celebrities talking about it but more of the Asian ones. Kudos to Will.i.am for urging viewers to stop Asian hate in The Voice UK, but we need more from all backgrounds to do the same as well. One step at a time and one issue at a time, we can all learn to be better human beings.
And for those who are considering sharing their thoughts to help drive awareness. Never think that your voice may be just another similar article or social post. To stop hate, we need as many people as possible to support in their own ways. Even if you don’t think you can change the world, you will change someone’s world by doing the right things.
Josh Chi is Head of Media & Strategy at Unite, the diverse and inclusive marketing division that works across OMD UK, Manning Gottlieb OMD, PHD UK and Hearts & Science in Omnicom Media Group.