A MESSAGE TO THE SEARCH FUND & ETA COMMUNITY
As investors in search funds and ETA, we want to let the Asian American community know that we stand with you in combatting anti-Asian racism. We speak from an American perspective, though acknowledge anti-Asian racism is a growing problem in other countries around the globe. While anti-Asian racism takes on many forms, the specific areas we address are hate crimes and discrimination/bias against individuals who appear to have Asian heritage (current hostility primarily impacts individuals with East and Southeast Asian ancestry but also impacts many of South Asian ancestry given the region’s diversity).
In the short term, our goal is to support Asian Americans and educate non-Asians of the challenges their Asian American peers, colleagues, and friends are facing in and outside of the workplace. In the long term, we would like to see leaders and investors more actively cultivate inclusive behavior and invest in promising Asian Americans and other minority leaders. Diverse leadership as a goal and priority will go a long way in strengthening your organizations and the communities you reside in. Our hope is the below will spur honest conversations and reflections about the Asian American experience in your communities and companies. We welcome Asian Americans and non-Asians as our allies, and embrace the opportunity to speak with you about our community’s experiences.
Have Physical and Verbal Attacks Against Asian Americans Increased?
Yes, Anti-Asian hate crime in 16 of America’s largest cities increased 149% in 2020 according to official preliminary police data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at CSU San Bernardino. Each of the signatories has personally experienced or know someone who has experienced racism or discrimination for being Asian in the last few months. While more visible in the media today, it’s important to note that hate crimes, racism, and discrimination against Asian Americans have always happened. Much of it goes normalized, unpublicized, and uncritiqued. National attention on violent attacks has come only in recent weeks, but over the last several months, Asian Americans have seen their community centers and businesses vandalized, have been harassed, threatened, and terrorized in their own homes/neighborhoods, have been slashed, shot, set on fire, shoved to the ground, punched, kicked, spat on, called “viruses,” (Center for Public Integrity released a study that showed 60% of Asian Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asians for coronavirus), and told that “they’re not welcome in the US” or to “go back to China.” Many of these attacks have targeted the most vulnerable- seniors who have no ability to defend themselves and do not know how or who to ask for help. For those in older generations, there is often a sentiment of resignation that nothing can be done to effectively stem the attacks or discrimination - this weariness stems from decades of feeling voiceless in American culture and society.
What’s the History of Asian Americans in the U.S.?
Asians have been contributing members on the American continent for centuries. Filipinos arrived in the US in the 1500s before the Pilgrims. Asians farmed California bringing their agricultural technological know-how and converting thousands of marshland acreage into farmable land. Chinese laborers constructed the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1800s. Since the War of 1812, Asian Americans, including many in the present day, have served in the US military. Asian American contributions further increased when America opened its doors to a larger pool of immigrants after the Hart-Celler Act in[redacted]Many Asian immigrants were highly educated and joined the labor force as professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), though the Asian immigrant pool also included many uneducated refugees.
What’s the History of Racism Against Asian Americans in the U.S.?
1800’s - In 1871, the Chinese community in Los Angeles was massacred in one of the largest mass lynchings in US history. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed, the first and only law in US history to target a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the US. It was in this period that East Asian peoples were characterized as an existential threat to Western societies and labeled the “Yellow Peril.” In 1899, Honolulu officials during a plague outbreak quarantined and burned down the city’s Chinatown.
1900’s - In 1900, 30,000 Chinese residents in San Francisco were forcibly quarantined behind barbed wire without evidence during the bubonic plague. In 1913, the Webb-Haney Act was passed so Asian farmers in California would not be allowed to own the land they toiled. In 1942, Executive Order 9066 led to the forcible removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. In the 1940s-50s during the communist scare, many Asian-owned businesses were boycotted, and Asian Americans were barred from employment opportunities and restricted to segregated neighborhoods and schools. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American automotive worker, was murdered amidst the rise of Japanese automobile manufacturers. In 1999, Taiwanese American physicist Wen Ho Lee was falsely accused of espionage and held in “demeaning and unnecessarily punitive conditions” per the federal judge on the case.
2000’s - In 2011, Danny Chen, a US army soldier serving in Afghanistan, was racially harassed and beaten by his fellow US soldiers before he committed suicide. In 2012, the New York DA’s office chose to prosecute a single bank in the 2008 financial crisis, Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small family-run Chinese American bank, which was acquitted of all charges.
How has the “Model Minority” Label Negatively Impacted Asian Americans?
Beginning in the 1960s, the term “model minority” was popularized to characterize Asian Americans. This characterization stems from a blanket perception that Asian Americans work hard, are law-abiding and fiscally conservative, focus on and make sacrifices for their children’s education, and have imbedded cultural norms to accept subordinate positions and defer to higher authority. The term’s usage and the accompanying narratives have presented challenges in addressing Asian American struggles. The model minority myth obscures the large variance of experience within Asian American communities and excuses the systematic exclusion that exists despite this “positive” narrative. Many Asian American ethnic groups face poverty rates well above the national average. Income inequality in the US is greatest among Asian Americans. While Asian Americans have higher median household incomes than the national average, they earn less than their white peers when controlling for education and geography1.
Do Asian Americans Received Equal Awareness and Support?
No, Asian Americans have often been excluded from conversations about poverty and social services leading to insufficient support. In NYC, Asian Americans experience the highest poverty rate of any racial group (29% poverty rate and 18% of total people living in poverty according to Urban Institute researchers in a 2014 study), but Asian American community organizations receive the least amount of resources- 1.4% of the total value of the city’s social service contracts and 1.5% of total contract dollars from the Department of Social Services. On a national level, in 2017, 2.9% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients were Asian Americans, though 4.8% of people in poverty in the US are Asian American. Accessing government assistance such as unemployment benefits is complicated for many in the Asian community- let alone appealing decisions when benefits are denied- many people didn’t even try.
There are challenges in data collection and limited outreach to Asian American communities, particularly those who are poor and vulnerable and are most likely to face language barriers. A widely cited national poll in September 2020 from Harvard, NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that 37% of Asians experienced serious financial problems during the pandemic, but the survey was conducted only by phone in English and Spanish. Polls like these have policy implications, including policymakers and the media ignoring the true hardships faced by Asian Americans.
What is the Bamboo Ceiling and is it Real?
The Bamboo Ceiling was coined in 2005 by Jane Hyun to describe a combination of individual, cultural, and organizational barriers that impede Asian Americans' career progress inside organizations. Surveys have shown that individuals with Asian names are the least likely among racial groups to receive a response when asking for guidance from faculty members, particularly in business, while white males are the most likely to receive attention2. While Asians are the most likely to be hired into high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley, they are the least likely among all races to become managers and executives3. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data shows Asian American white-collar professionals are the least likely group to be promoted into management roles4. Asian Americans comprise 12% of the professional workforce, but fewer than 1% of S&P 500 CEOs were of East Asian descent in any year from 2010 to[redacted]Based on 2018 data from Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity, the percentage of Fortunate 500 board seats held by people identified as Asian/Pacific Islander was 3.7%. There are many possible explanations- stereotyping and unconscious bias potentially play roles6.
How Can I Support the Asian American Community?
In the near term, we need help condemning the brazen physical and verbal attacks against Asian Americans. It is unsettling to see people feel entitled to unleash violence and hate against other Americans and strip them of their dignity simply for their race. There are now many generations who have grown up learning that demeaning Asian Americans is acceptable in pop culture, society and politics. Many of our friends and family members do not feel safe, some for the first time. Many racist attitudes and comments are so normalized within social circles that many do not recognize a problem exists.
If you witness a hate crime, please assist the victim if you can and help them report the crime. Advocates and academics need the data to effectively lobby. Visit @stopaapihate (https://stopaapihate.org/) to report hate crimes on a national level.7 Free bystander intervention training so you know how to respond when you witness anti-Asian harassment is available by simply registering here: https://www.ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention/. To stay informed on the news, visit @nextshark (https://nextshark.com/).
The other near-term need is to help alleviate poverty within the Asian American community that was exacerbated by the pandemic. We suggest considering making donations to the following organizations and will personally match $10,000 in donations:
- AAPI Community Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-aapi-community-fund
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice: https://secure.donationpay.org/aajc/
- Welcome to Chinatown NYC: https://www.welcometochinatown.com/initiatives
- Compassion in Oakland: https://compassioninoakland.org/donate
- Heart of Dinner: Feeding the AAPI Elderly: https://www.heartofdinner.org/
To address long-term challenges, we also plan on establishing a network to promote Asian American search entrepreneurs and investors and welcome participation from interested parties.
Vince Vo, Principal at Anacapa Partners Ray Fan, Managing Partner at Granite Capital
5 Lu, J.G., Nisbett, R.E., & Morris, M.W[redacted]), The Bamboo Ceiling, 117(9), 4590–4600.
7 To report hate crimes locally, for NYC: ([redacted]HATE for the NYPD, ([redacted]for the New York State Division of Human Rights or text “HATE” to 81336, for SF Bay Area: ([redacted]for the San Francisco Human Rights Hotline, and for Los Angeles: DIAL 211 (https://211la.org/la-vs-hate).