Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased exponentially over the course of the pandemic due to racially charged and xenophobic rhetoric expressed by people such as former President Donald Trump, who has publicly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus”.
Comments such as those referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” are very damaging to the AAPI community and have made me, an Asian woman, more susceptible to hate crimes/speech. The recent shooting in Atlanta and attacks against predominantly elderly Asian men and women serve as a grim reminder that racism is still prevalent in society.
As seen in the racially charged shooting in Atlanta of eight people (six of whom were Asian-American women), anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 150% in the past year, as seen in an article by PR Week. These anti-Asian attacks mostly target people of Asian descent over the age of sixty, and the pictures of the helpless victims will forever be ingrained in my memory.
According to PR Week, the increase in anti-Asian crimes and xenophobic rhetoric has resulted in companies, brands, agencies, and influencers publicly showing support for the AAPI community, during this time of heartbreak and fear. Support for the AAPI community is gaining popularity, similar to the impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement protests during the summer of 2020. It is important for public relations agencies and companies to promote the message of unity and stand in solidarity with this community in order to instill confidence in those who have been targeted by this prejudice.
Wunderman Thompson, Publicis Groupe, Ogilvy, Omnicom, Essence, March Communications, and many other organizations such as GoFundMe and Verizon have shown their public support for the AAPI community.
For instance, GoFundMe has launched a #StopAsianHate campaign. This initiative encourages people to donate to a central fund that will distribute grants to organizations that advocate for the AAPI community. Due to the increase in calls for action and support, agency executives have employed the help of their employees to utilize social media to show support and share resources. Ogilvy has shared statements addressing anti-Asian hate crimes with staff, while Omnicom has initiated a #StopAsianHate social media campaign which has inspired other agencies to show their support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I am overjoyed to see agencies and organziations having open conversations to discuss how to support members of the AAPI community. The support includes actively creating a safe working environment, diversity training, sharing messages of support and providing resources to donate or spread awareness.
The public support of public relations agencies and organizations is a sign of hope for me. Through platforms such as Twitter, PRSSA shared resources and published a statement endorsing the message of unity. This statement is in line with the PRSSA commitment to champion diversity and serve as advocates for the profession. Standing in solidarity with the AAPI community is a step in the right direction and necessary to publicly acknowledge the injustices being committed towards the Asian community.
Caitlin Lambe is a sophomore communication major with a concentration in public relations and a minor in cultural anthropology at Manhattan College. She is an intern at the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center and a social justice advocate.