The role of community in stopping AAPI hate

June 15, 2021

Xenophobia and violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has risen during the pandemic. Over 7,000 attacks against individuals in the community were reported by Chris speaks to Vivian Nguyen about the importance of allyship in these tough times.

- Welcome everyone. I am Chris Hyams CEO of Indeed. My pronouns are he and him. And welcome to the next episode of Here to Help. This is how we look at how indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today's June 7th, we're on day 461 of global work from home and June is pride month and we have upcoming episodes where we'll focus on the LGBTQIA plus community, but May was Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month here in the U.S. A celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the States. And the month of may was chosen to Mark two significant events, the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to the U.S. on May 7th, 1843, and the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad, which was completed. Thanks to the labor of tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants on May 10th, 1869. Today, I am joined by Vivian Nguyen, Global Product Solutions Manager here at Indeed and Co-chair of the Asian Network Inclusion Resource Group. We will be reflecting on the events and celebrations of AAPI Heritage Month and how on the ongoing pandemic and the backdrop of arising anti-Asian sentiment is affecting the community today. Vivian, thank you so much for joining me.

- Thanks for having me, Chris. And I'm really excited to be here today and talk to you about all that's happened over the past year and my experience being Co-Chair of the Asian network.

- Fantastic. Well, let's start with a quick trigger warning. We will be discussing the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents over the past year. So let's start off Vivian where we always start these conversations with a check-in. How are you doing right now?

- I'm doing pretty well. All things considered. I am currently traveling and I'm not in my apartment right now but I recently packed up my apartment in New York city. And it's hard to not pack up your apartment and start to be pretty pensive about all the things that had happened over the past year in that space. And while I was packing up, I actually found a business card from when I interviewed at Indeed. And I thought two things, one, my boyfriend is right. I need to be better about throwing away things. So I don't have to go in a mad scramble. And then the second part was the last time I held this business card, I was worried if I would even get the job at Indeed as a Global Product Solution Specialist. And we fast forward a year later, and I have the privilege of being able to manage that team as well as co-leading the Asian network as Co-Chair for the Americas. So so much can happen in just a year. And I'm excited to talk through all the events that led up to this moment.

- Well, we're glad you're here. And before we dive in for the rest of the conversation can you just tell us a little bit about how you help people get jobs and what exactly is a Global Product Solutions Manager?

- Yeah. Of course, I lead a wonderful team and I'm part of a wonderful team that influences and leads the strategic vision and adoption of Indeed's new product growth by providing solutions and partnerships to clients and internal stakeholders. So we can help people get jobs. So we help people get jobs faster help people get jobs that they're truly passionate about and we help our employers find creative solutions to hire those people.

- So when we met last week to get ready for this conversation, one of the things that you were talking about was about finding your voice. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you and about that journey for you?

- Yeah. I've been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks, few months as we reflect over the past year. And I think about how COVID has impacted how I think of myself and how I think of the world. And it really always centers back into this philosophy of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need. Which I learned as a camp counselor. They trained us up on it so we can help support our campers in it. But the main idea that without going too deep into it is that human behavior is driven by a level of hierarchal needs. And at the bottom is physiological, then safety, love, esteem and all of which one fulfilled in that step wise fashion will lead us to find self-actualization. So living to your fullest potential being the best person you can be. And I think of my experience growing up in the Bay area, I'm from San Jose. I grew up in the Bay area. I've always been part of a very large Asian community in my high school alone. I was one of six Vivian wins. So there was a lot of us and being in such a large Asian community, looking back on it it made me realize that my sense of safety, my sense of esteem that has never felt in jeopardy. And I could focus on being the best version of me, the best Vivian win I could be out there. And what that looked like was helping others. That has always been my North star and where I've used my voice the most whether it be a camp counselor for the underserved community in Los Angeles, or providing public health care and medical and triaged access to developing countries to how I choose the companies that I work for, like Indeed where we help people get jobs. And so going with Indeed is helping people has always been my north star and how I use my voice in that.

- So it sounds like that is in part a big motivation for wanting to take on this leadership role within the Asian network IRG. Can you talk about that a little bit?

- Yes. This past year, I think as an understatement was super tough on everyone. And I think part of the reason I was motivated to be a leader at the Asian network within the IRG is it's really two pronged. One is thanks to the team that I'm on the Global Product Solutions Team where there was such a focus on inclusivity and how we have those conversations that it taught me the importance of it. So as I mentioned over the past year life, terrible things happened. And I think one of the challenges that we face is how do we talk about this stuff at work? And I didn't know how to talk about that stuff at work. I didn't know if this is just something you just keep at the door when you go into the office. But then one of the great things is that our leadership had set up brave spaces where we can not only learn about these subject matters but I could see amongst my colleagues that this was an important subject matter that they wanted to talk about to help us understand our team and each other better. And there was a level of respect there where we could also see that other people who are allies wanted to understand how were they impacting the people on our team and how can we help them create a more inclusive space? And so that was one part of it where it created this foundational support of, Hey, we can talk about this at work. We can figure it out. The second part of it is that Howard and Sharon who were the last Co-Chairs of the Asian network really paved the path to lift this important issue of they had a panel to talk about xenophobia and the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and why this was happening. And really the two in tandem together was what made me realize this is where I could use that voice that I've always had, where I want to help people, where this is my experience. And when we think about what COVID has done we go back to Maslow's hierarchy. If we think about what COVID has done it's threatened the idea of safety and self-esteem where people that look like me, that look like my family, that look like my friends, that look like other Indians who have been harassed and hurt in those sense. This is my way to speak up and help and take that more active role. So all those things together really motivated me to find this place as Co-Chair of the Asian Network.

- So you mentioned Howard, Nguyen it was a little over a year ago that I sat down with Howard for Here to Help episode to talk about the impact of COVID on the Asian American Community. And this was pretty early on and COVID obviously had no idea where we were in that process or how long things were going to be going. It was an incredibly powerful and moving conversation. And a lot has happened since then. So can you talk a little bit about some of what's transpired during that time and the impact on the community?

- Howard and Sharon truly laid such a strong foundation for us to be able to have these conversations. I remember when I was at work and I tuned in for the panel and it was amazing for me to see this happen during work hours in the first place but for me to also learn why this is happening. What is the crux of this? Is this random. And by educating us, they really catalyzed what we could do and how we should think about this. But unfortunately, since that has happened since the panels happen, and since I've taken on this rule things have gotten for the worse for the community. Since the start of COVID Stop AAPI Hate Asian American Pacific Islander hate which is a website where they collect reported incidents. They have reported that almost 7,000 hate incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has happened since the start of COVID. And when we think about it those are the ones that are reported. There's so many that go unreported. There's this story that always comes back to me when I think about the community. And it happened a little bit earlier on during COVID but this grandmother in Brooklyn, my backyard when I was living in New York this grandmother who was assaulted set on fire and thankfully she's alive today, but didn't even tell her children that happened because she didn't want them to worry. And so when these events continue to happen, I took on this role in February there was more and more violence against senior citizens. And so sadness and this anger that begins to bubble up where senior citizens who are just going out on a walk who are just going about their day and are getting attacked and murdered, it starts there. And then a level of frustration starts to hit because during that same period of time, at the end of February it wasn't even being covered on the news. And I believe that so many people feel frustrated because the Asian Community tends to be overlooked when this happens. And so when the senior citizens were getting attacked, when grandparents and people that look like me were getting attacked, was not covered by the news. It can continue to solidify that narrative of it's not as important. And then it truly truly hit its apex, this emotional apex when in March, when the Atlanta shooting happened. Six Asian women were murdered. And so when I think about the time that I've been Co-Chair and I think about the past year I just think about this leading crescendo of emotions, of sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration and ultimately hating that moment. And I could feel that not only amongst my friends and family, but people that I worked with as well.

- Obviously stepping into this role and with events unfolding the response and the role of the IRG itself has had to evolve and adapt to support folks. Can you talk about how the IRG has changed and that role over the last few months.

- It has been a lot of things have happened since February since I took on this role. And in the last question, I really talked about all the emotions that were happening that have bubbled up not only in the past month that I had been in that role but over the past year where we constantly wake up and we think about what happened next and what I think the IRG with the Asian Network has done very well is channeling those emotions into actions. So I would be remiss to talk about this but I lead the Asian Network with an amazing Co-Chair Claire Valladares. And I remember that the first month that we were co-chairs together and all of this stuff was happening. The rise in senior citizens getting hurt in the Bay area. I remember thinking I am all the way in New York. This is happening in my hometown, my city and what are we supposed to do? And Claire is a force to be reckoned with. She continues to inspire me every day, but she was like she went to me and she was like, "What do you think if we raised personal safety alarms "and donate it to senior citizens in the Bay area?" And not only did we mobilize so quickly because we wanted to think about what can we do? How can we change these things? We mobilized quickly? And I wanted to thank all the other IRGs too because as soon as we put that message out there they all amplified within their own Slack channels, the importance and why we should do this. And what our original goal was to raise 500 alarms that would have been like what a wonderful thing that we did within just a couple of weeks of being in this role. And overnight, we had raised over 1500 alarms and it's that kind of action that really set forth and catalyze the rest of the things that we had done with the Asian Network at that time whether it be hosting the Asian monologues at Indeed where Indians and gloss Dorians had come together to talk through spoken word and poem of their experience as an Asian-American or their hopes and dreams for their children as Asian Americans or to the banner that we had on with a letter that you penned of why it is important that we stand against Stop AAPI Hate and why this is so important and have this company reflect why we're important to them. And so as much action as we had put forth I think it's so tempting especially when you have all this momentum and you want to keep going you want to keep doing as many things as possible but you have to also pause and realize the importance of healing. And so one of the most profound moments that I've had as Co-Chair was after the Atlanta shooting had happened. I remember that same week the shooting had happened. We wanted to put together a space for people to talk as quickly as possible. We had just gotten the banner up on and that Friday it was so last minute I was thinking what if no one shows up? People might not show up, it's a Friday afternoon. I understand you want to get off work. And so many people had showed up. You had shown up, we appreciate it so much. And I just remember being in that moment of people truly saying their fears, their frustration as to why this had happened and that they were scared for themselves and their family and the vulnerability and strength that the members had shown and voiced in that session and the empathy that our allies had shown by showing up to listen, to try to understand their colleagues that much more as to why this event had impacted them so much, was it continues to move me even thinking about it today. And it's truly the hard work of our leadership team, our members, our allies, even the little things like posting in the Slack channel about bystander training and who's signing up for it, seeing that sense of comradery at Indeed. And people always asking us as co-chairs, what can I do? It continues to inspire me to have these events and be a better leader within the Asian Network.

- You talked about the collaboration between the different IRG or Inclusion Resource Groups. And that's certainly for me been one of the most inspiring things that we've seen throughout the pandemic is just how various groups have been there to show up for each other when they've needed that support. I know in particular the Asian Network has worked very closely with the Black Inclusion Group or BIG and with many other IRGs, can you talk a little bit about the importance of that kind of collaboration?

- It's important because I think we need each other and that's such a simple thing to say now that I say it out loud, but truly when I think about the work that we've done most recently with the Black Inclusion Group and most recently we hosted a VS battle with them. And I know you've partaken in the VS battle as well but in that battle with BIG and Asian Network if you haven't heard of before, it's essentially where a representative from BIG and a representative from Asia Network go six, seven rounds of choosing music. And then the crowd decides who chose the better song essentially. And in that we sprinkled in the idea of how the black and Asian community have stood together throughout history. And in tandem to that, we worked together to raise over $4,000 in COVID relief in India. And again, super simplistic by working together we were able to hit that goal. But I think we also did a larger thing as well of sending this message of we've worked together and by working together, we've achieved more. And I think about that a lot as a Co-Chair because as I said in the beginning, especially in the beginning of COVID, I didn't know how to have these types of conversations at work. I didn't know what was the best way to have it. And earlier I had talked about the Atlanta shooting safe space and how it was such an important moment for me as a leader and had it not been for big starting that during black lives matter had they not started the healing spaces. I don't know if I would have been able to know this is what people needed within our community. They taught us a lesson of healing and the importance of it. And in many ways, force the path of how to have these conversations. And we see those parallels in history all the time. We see how black Americans have gotten us here. For instance, The Immigration Act and Naturalization Act of 1965. It was largely passed because of the growing strength of the civil rights movement. And that act allowed refugees of violence or unrest into America. It allowed immigrants into America. I am a child of an immigrant and without this act, a lot of my friends, a lot of my family, their family wouldn't be here. There wouldn't be a high school with six Vivian wins let alone myself out there. If it wasn't for this act and the work that black Americans and allies have done.

- You mentioned just talking about these issues at work which I think especially recently there's been a lot of discussion about why are we talking about these things at work? The business exists to do X, Y or Z. Why is it important to have conversations like this in the workplace?

- I think about it two ways. I know I talked about packing up my apartment. It was a very small apartment very lucky to get out of there. And part of that, what made it so small is that I would sit in a chair very similar to this one. And the same day that I would send an email to my team is the same chair that I'm sitting in, scrolling through Instagram and seeing yet another senseless act of violence against the community. And it's the same chair that I'm eating dinner in and watching TV. And all of these experiences are blended into one place especially working from home for a year plus. And it's difficult for us to disassociate what's happening if we don't acknowledge what's happening. So having those conversations, acknowledging that like this is happening and you're experiencing it and we don't have to ignore those situations happening around you. And with COVID, there's also a sense of isolation where you can't go outside you can't see your coworkers. And so you don't know if what you're feeling is what is being felt by everyone else. And so there is a power in shared experiences that I think the IRGs do so well where you don't feel alone in how you're feeling. And a perfect example of that. This was another safe space that was held. And in that safe space, I remember it, it ended. And the last thing someone said was their dad loved just going to the grocery store, walking around just like walking about life. That's how he loved to like take a break throughout the day. And the person that told the story had said, "I had to sit my dad down and tell him "I know you love walking around "outside and enjoying that outside time "but I need you to not do that right now "because there's a lot of hate "in the world and I want you to be safe." And for someone to even have that conversation with their parent is difficult. But I remember when that story was told where I was thinking, I have thought that my friends have thought that and the importance of having these conversations at work is so that when you're at work, you don't have to feel like I have to pretend everything is okay. That one story was like that's one less thing I have to pretend is okay. And now colleagues who have sat in and listen understand that a little bit better too. And so having these conversations at work, especially over the past year have made me feel and others feel a little less isolated and a little bit more connected.

- So let's talk a little bit about how everyone can best support the Asian Community right now. And in particular, what do you see as the role of allyship?

- It's a tough role. Especially in allyship and how we can support the Asian Community. I think a lot of us are figuring that out too. One realization I had earlier this year was I grew up in the U.S, I took U.S. history like many of us. And in that, I didn't know anything about the murder of Vincent chin. I didn't know about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the immigration act and how that impacted my community. And so I think the first thing that we think about is how can we educate ourselves to learn these things are happening or have happened. And that for many of us we're learning it for the first time too. And so it's educating ourselves finding that information and being able to engage in that dialogue. The other part is being able to listen. I have wide respect for the allies that have come in during the safe spaces. And just listen to what is happening with their colleagues right now. And just wanting to understand. And I think, especially in this past year understanding that they want to understand. And so there's the education, there's the listening. And ultimately, it's also challenging the thought where these microaggressions such as saying Kung flu or things of that nature. We think about how in March when the shooting had happened, for many of us it was a breaking point. It was a bunch of these little things that had happened that led us to this moment. And I think for allies, especially over the past year with a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes a lot of the questions come from how did this happen? How did we get here? And so by challenging the thought it will prevent that from happening. And I think about the work that I've done as an ally and how I need to do all those things better as well. But Chris, I know you've been very involved in the past year about this. You were at our safe space after the Atlanta shooting you had penned a note about why D does not condone these hate crimes. So I would love to hear from you what your experience has been as an ally.

- Yeah, there's certainly been a lot of opportunity throughout the pandemic. I mean, there's certainly always has been but I think there's been so much more awareness and focus. And so you talked about listening, which I think is certainly one important part. And we've had an extraordinary opportunity at Indeed to be able to witness together how people respond to what's going on in the world and being part of the safe space. It was an honor really to be able to witness the raw honesty and the incredible courage and bravery that people just being able to in a group talk about how they feel and what's going on and their fear for themselves but for their family and for their community. And it's been incredibly powerful to see, you talked about this collaboration, how the strength of other marginalized communities showing up and holding each other up. And that's something that's been going on throughout this. I remember last year, actually, during pride month there was a panel of... that was hosted by our pride IRG with a number of trans kids who were talking about their experience. And I remember just being so moved by this trans boy who was checking his own privilege because he could pass as CIS. And when you think about how challenging the experience for anyone, isn't it that in certain circumstances, everyone has some privilege and that so for me I have extraordinary privilege. I am a white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied male who also has a job title that that gives me extraordinary privilege. And so I've been thinking a lot about Alicia Garza. Who's one of the co-founders of black lives matter. She talks a lot of and there's no words people can get really caught up in different things. But one of the things that She says that she doesn't really like the word ally. What she wants is co-conspirators. And so there's the listening and the learning which are important, but then there's the how do you show up? And so for me, that starts with recognizing my privilege and then seeing what I can do with that. And so a big part of that is creating an opportunity for voices that need amplification basically to share my platform. However possible and to do things that are inconvenient. I have a friend who likes to say, "If it's convenient, it's not service." And so I think that that's in terms of the aspiration for me, I want to be an ally but I want to be a co-conspirator and I want to show up and I want to put what I have to use to help support others. And it's been so humbling to see that at Indeed every single day with all of the folks who are showing up and putting themselves out there. So thank you for asking the question. So we're running up on time and I just have time for a couple more questions but I want to ask about thinking how we go forward from here. And not that we haven't been going forward but sitting where we are today what is something that you would want to change about how people show up at work and how they interact with each other at work?

- One thing is hard just choosing one but if I had to choose one thing it would be to open up our perspective. I think I know over the past year, I've learned a lot just from listening as a co-conspirator, I've been listening, I've been working with others to help tell the stories, to raise the stories around us. And I think more than ever we've realized that there is a lot more to a person than what you just see in the zoom frame. There's a whole life outside of that and understanding the things that are impacting our colleagues in the every day. And I think by opening up our perspective by if we are vulnerable and brave enough to have these conversations at work which to me is one of the scariest places you could have it, then we're going to be brave enough to have these conversations outside of work with our friends and our family. And that message is going to permeate and resonate into the world. And I think all of that together is going to help make the world a little bit better.

- Well, thank you for that, Vivian. And let me close out here the way that we like to close out by asking if you look back throughout the start of the pandemic what have your experiences has left you optimistic for the future?

- I thought about this a lot when I was moving out because as much as I complain about my apartment it was truly a safe haven during COVID because New York City had that a little bit this time, last year had been the epicenter of COVID cases with over 10,000 a day. And I remember going home and saying bye to my team probably see you in two weeks. And here we are almost 400 plus days later. And being in that apartment not being able to go out for almost two months. And I remember in may where it was a sunny day and we could finally finally go out because the case has had gone down. And my boyfriend had packed us a picnic. And he's like, "we're going to go to the park." It's a beautiful day. And when we had gotten to the park, there were all these social distancing circles all over the park. And it was the first time I'd ever seen it. And, but I get it. This is great. So we sat down and even sitting down to these social distancing circles being able to almost see people it's like an out of world experience because you feel like they're in another world. But just even eating my sandwich at the time I was like I don't know if I should take out my mask in public. Like, I don't know if this is the right thing to do just so much not sure, like, so not sure what to do. And I look back at that time and we were packing up our apartment a few weeks ago, and as we were packing up I was like, I'm going to to go to the park get us some shake shack as a victory meal for packing up the whole apartment in a day. And when I had walked to the park I noticed that a year later, these circles were gone. The grass had grown over them. People, kids were blowing bubbles everywhere and people were running around. And just that small detail of these circles and these masks and hand sanitizer everything that dictated our lives for so long. Seeing those circles disappear made me optimistic for the future because it's some semblance of normalcy that's on the horizon.

- That's beautiful. Well, Vivian, thank you so much for joining me today and thanks for sharing your experiences and especially thank you so much for everything that you do for everyone at Indeed and everyone around the world, helping people get jobs.

- Thank you for having me.