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Regional Interests

Thousands of Business Leaders Commit $10M to AAPI Organizations Fighting Racism

Like many in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, Dave Lu found himself horrified at the Atlanta, Georgia shooting that left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian American women.

Anger. Hopelessness. These emotions and more were publicly voiced by many. And even living in faraway San Francisco — his home of two decades — Lu felt them all, too.

“A lot of us were like, I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “We felt hopeless.”

And like many in the AAPI community, Lu turned to his own networks to rally support. Lu’s networks, however, are perhaps more jaw-dropping than most.  Lu, the co-founder of food staffing app Pared and a managing partner at the AAPI-connecting Hyphen Capital, put out the call to Silicon Valley, and titans of industry answered.

Highly-placed AAPI business leaders and their allies, from Google, Walmart, Zoom, the Golden State Warriors, TikTok, the Brooklyn Nets — even Pizza Hut — signed onto Lu’s joint letter stating, “Enough,” which published in the Wall Street Journal as a full-page advertisement, Wednesday.

Read the full letter here.

“We, the Asian American business leaders of America, are tired, angry and afraid — and not for the first time. We are tired of being treated as less than American, subject to harassment and now, every day, we read about another member of our community being physically attacked — simply for being Asian,” the letter reads.

Those business leaders, now numbering at nearly 3,850 signatories and counting, committed to fund efforts to support AAPI communities. At first, Lu asked for $1 million from his network, but the response was so great that he adjusted that total to $10 million in support over the next year.

The letter name-checked organizations like Stop AAPI Hate, which is tallying incidents of hate against the AAPI community, AAPI Women Lead, the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice Network, Association for Asian American Studies, and more, all of which were nodded to as beneficiaries of the fundraising effort.

Lu was joined in this effort by Yul Kwon, a senior director of product management at Google, who is also the first Asian American winner of the reality TV show “Survivor.” Speaking to KQED, Kwon acknowledged both he and Lu have a perhaps loftier reach than most, but said they had a responsibility to use those connections to help their community.

“Regardless of how much we’ve succeeded, people have seen us as foreigners,” Kwon said. “I’m just as worried about my friends and my parents, I’ve had friends just punched in the face walking down [in] San Francisco.”

“None of this success protects us from violence and hate,” Kwon said. And he isn’t the only one speaking out in his family. His wife, Sophie, helped organize a Bay Area rally against hate just last weekend.

Yul Kwon helped organize an anti-Asian hate rally in the Peninsula on Sunday, March 28, 2021. Kwon was the first Asian American winner of the show ‘Survivor.’ He says he went on the show to serve as a role model for Asian children and to defy Asian stereotypes. (Esther Lee/KQED)

In Silicon Valley, Kwon said, people tend to lump all the diverse cultures who identify as Asian together. But they represent “the richest to the poorest,” and need to band together to support the broad spectrum of the community.

Lu said that manifests as educating their own communities, from Silicon Valley to the readers of the Wall Street Journal, where their joint letter ran.

“Do you guys even know, like, what’s happening to Asians?” Lu said. “We’re not going to be invisible anymore. I think we’re standing up and rising up together. I think seeing the names on this list kind of really encourages a lot of people to do that without fear.”

Some of the signatories — from Rick Welts, the president of the Golden State Warriors, to Tony Xu, the founder of DoorDash, or Ken Lin, CEO of Credit Karma — have “huge platforms,” Lu said.

“These have folks have thousands and thousands of employees that are the ones who are listening,” he said, “So if they put their names from pen to paper, or a digital kind of paper, and they report this, it makes people take note.”

Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and one of the organizers of Stop AAPI Hate, said it was too early to tell how much of a funding boost their effort netted from Lu’s WSJ ad — it was only the first day.

Still, she said, “we have seen an overall increase in support,” in their funding of late.

Between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021, there were at least 3,795 incidents of anti-Asian hate across the nation, ranging from physical assault and verbal harassment to various civil rights violations, according to data collected by Stop AAPI Hate.

More than 700 of those incidents took place in the Bay Area.

That’s no surprise to Kwon — his own mother encountered community racism just a few weeks ago.

Kwon’s mother, a decades-long Concord resident who emigrated from South Korea, drove to Martinez to get a COVID-19 vaccination at a local Kaiser Permanente hospital. Lost, she stopped at a gas station to ask for help, only to find her car blocked in by an aggressive stranger.

“When she asked him, ‘can you please let me go?’ He basically yelled at her, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, this is my country,'” Kwon recalled. She locked herself in her car and waited for him to leave.

But Kwon has some hope. “I asked my mom, are you scared of white people now? She said no.”

After the man left, a white woman inside the gas station came out and comforted Kwon’s mother, and helped guide her to the Kaiser hospital personally.

“She had my mom follow her in her car … that was just such an extraordinary act of kindness, of humanity,” Kwon said.  “I’d like to believe that most people in my own experience, most people are good here.”

And for those who arent? Lu and Kwon hope their efforts will drown them out, and help amplify those doing good works for the AAPI community.

Below, read the full letter signed by AAPI business leaders and their allies Lu published in the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday:

We, the Asian American business leaders of America, are tired, angry and afraid — and not for the first time. We are tired of being treated as less than American, subject to harassment and now, every day, we read about another member of our community being physically attacked — simply for being Asian. We are afraid for the safety of our loved ones. We are angry that our families can no longer go outside in their own neighborhoods where they have lived for decades because it might not be safe. We have given a lot to this country where we were born or to which we immigrated. Our community includes your cashiers, your teachers, your cooks, your doctors, your lawyers, your dry cleaners, your colleagues, your friends. We cut your nails. We write your code. We’ve launched rovers to Mars and back. Many of us have created jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans. We chose to make America our home and we strive every day to make America better — just like you. We don’t deserve to live in fear in our own country. The vitriol has made Asians the targets of this blame. Rhetoric matters. The “China Virus.” “Kung Flu.” Those words were an open invitation to hate and the result has been a 150% rise over the past year in reported hate crimes against the Asian American community, disproportionately against Asian women. We ask for your support in ending violence against Asian Americans. We no longer want to fear being stabbed from behind, fatally knocked to the ground, having acid thrown on our face or gunned down like the mothers and grandmothers in Atlanta. We no longer want to see photos of bruised and battered Asian seniors with GoFundMe links asking for support. It is critical that we also acknowledge that the violence we are experiencing has been the daily reality for our Black, Latinx, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities. The Asian American business leaders in our community are committed to fighting for change. The change that is needed requires a national awakening and a dialogue that involves leaders from every community if we are to undo the generations of systemic bias and racism. We are business leaders. We can help make change happen. Today, we pledge: To stop Asian violence, we are collectively committing $1M to fight Asian hate by supporting the following organizations that are doing the grassroots work to support our communities. Reporting and documenting hate crimes is critical to stopping them so we will invest in the StopAAPIHate effort. We commit that our fight for Asian American recognition and justice will be intersectional, addressing the unequal injustices faced by women, the less educated, and persons with disabilities in our community, and we advocate for resources to protect and empower Asian women by donating to AAPI Women Lead and NAPAWF.We will defend those impacted by hate crimes and ensure that they have proper legal representation and will donate to the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice network. We will fund research and education on the causes and solutions to Asian racism of all forms by donating to the Association for Asian American Studies. To support Asian employees, we commit to creating and funding AAPI employee resource groups to ensure Asian employees, especially women who bear the brunt of the harassment, have a safe space to tell their stories, receive support and report discrimination without fear of retaliation. To ensure representation, we commit to reporting out on diversity of all groups and to redefine Asian Americans as a group worth representation at all levels of the organization. As Asian American community activist Grace Lee Boggs said: “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” We, your friends, colleagues, and neighbors, ask that you join us in ending discrimination and violence against the Asian community and all marginalized communities. Enough is enough. Stand with us.

Copyright 2021 KQED