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6 BARRIERS AAPI REGULARLY FACE AND AN EASY BEGINNING SOLUTION

Sue O'Halloran Race Equity Speaker and Story Artist

3 min read

May 1

26

1




Continuing our series on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), I wanted to discuss some common barriers my colleagues and students have told me they regularly face. They include:


  1. Being treated as if they had just arrived. Most Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been asked more than once, "Where are you from?" It's one of those subtle messages telling someone they are seen as an Outsider, a foreigner. You can imagine how that grates. How many times do some of our colleagues or students have to say, "I was born here in the U.S."? 

  2. British accents are considered charming, but an Asian or Pacific accent is too often considered less sophisticated and more foreign. AAPIs whose families have been here for generations are likely asked, "How did you learn to speak English so well?" Bangladeshi American storyteller Arif Choudhury says he answers, "You mean, how did I learn to speak English so well? The same place where you should have… school!"

  3. The other barrier for many AAPIs is feeling invisible—either because they don't see many representations of themselves in the curricula and general society or because, if they are more reserved, they are easily overlooked, interrupted, or overpowered.

  4. In some of the schools and businesses where I work, I've seen Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders treated as the worker bees, not the leaders - for example, being asked to be the Association or Student Council treasurer but not the President. Managers or teachers might think nothing of giving those with AAPI backgrounds extra assignments or asking them to do more favors.

  5. The positive stereotype of the "Model Minority" can work against AAPI students and employees because others may assume that they "all do well." Teachers or Managers can sometimes be more demanding of them and expect more. The pressure can be immense. Also, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders might not get the recognition they deserve because of this stereotype; others expect them to excel. Additionally, I've seen students fall behind in their studies before they are noticed.

  6. A strange discrimination against Asian Americans can be that some people believe Asian Americans face no discrimination. The stereotype goes: "All Asian Americans are rich and successful." I had to coach a Department Manager who kept asking her employees to "chip in" for birthdays, weddings, births, etc. She was unaware that some Asian American employees had little money for these extras. Similarly, it took me a while to convince a teacher that the reason an Asian American student was falling asleep in class was because his family had been living in a shelter where a noisy next-door neighbor kept him awake. 


What can we do? 


We can examine how our racial conditioning may appear in our lives. None of us are responsible for the conditioning we've received and, therefore, the stereotypes in our brains, but we are responsible for how we treat others. Our intention and our impact can be quite different. I would venture that no one reading my articles sets out to irritate or discriminate against anyone in the Asian or Pacific Island American communities. Our intentions are good, yet we are capable of behaviors that send de-valuing messages.


Be open to the feedback you may receive and keep expanding your knowledge base. Read books by Asian/Pacific authors. Make purposeful decisions to attend AAPI panels and conferences or stream them online. 


In future articles, we'll talk about Actions that support our Asian American and Pacific Islander American communities, but the first step in managing the AAPI stereotypes and subsequent behaviors in ourselves is to open our awareness to the beauty, depth, complexity, and variety of Asians, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Pacific Island Americans in our communities and country.


 

* If you know someone in an organization that wants to focus on equity issues, would you send this article to them or tell them about O’Halloran Diversity Productions? They can reach me at susan@susanohalloran.com, and we can set up a short conversation to see if I can help them. Thanks in advance!

 

You may reprint this article with proper credit: Written by Sue O’Halloran at www.SusanOHalloran.com

 

Sue O'Halloran Race Equity Speaker and Story Artist

3 min read

May 1

26

1

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