| 5 min

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Series: Unconscious Bias Towards the Asian and Asian-American Pacific Islander ("AAPI") Community

We are going to drop you into a story that takes place at a fictitious SMB. While the main goal of this story is to provide ideas around unconscious bias and its impact on the AAPI community in the workplace, we will touch on a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) themes.

Published: Oct 20, 2021

When “kind” words aren’t kind.

In 2020, the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community found itself the target of myriad racial misunderstandings, with violence against Asian Americans skyrocketing by nearly 150% due to biased beliefs about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, 81% of Asian American adults surveyed said violence against them is increasing, and one-third said they live in fear of threats and physical attacks.

Even when teammates mean well, they can inadvertently support racial bias through comments meant as compliments. Education and conversation are the surest ways to create a compassionate and understanding workforce for all.

TriNet’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series is designed to provide ideas around having a diverse workforce. You will see avenues the characters can take in the conversation below. These are just a few potential paths we believe to be helpful and are not meant to be considered as the only possible outcomes. Feel free to navigate to a different path at the bottom of the page.

The main things you need to know are:

  • This story takes place at a fictional SMB that is not too far into its corporate DEI journey. The company in this vignette is unrelated to the company in the previous vignettes 1 through 5 in our TriNet DEI Series.

  • While the SMB is made up, the story includes real-life content.

  • The following takes place via teleconferencing due to COVID-19. As background, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the country and SMBs since March 2020. Some Americans had derogatorily and inaccurately referred to COVID-19 as a “Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu”. In early 2021, there was increased reporting on attacks on AAPI communities, specifically elderly Asian women. On March 18, 2021, a man attacked workers and patrons at three Atlanta-area spas, killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women. In 2021, the White House issued a Memorandum to condemn and combat racism and intolerance against the Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders due to COVID-19.

Unpacking a “Compliment”

Applause. “Let’s all thank Michelle for her informative presentation on effective workplace communication!” Collette unmutes her computer and asks, “Does anyone have any additional questions or comments for Michelle?”

Ana jumps in to say “You are so impressive. You have such great credentials – two master’s degrees from Ivy League schools! And you really held your own on screen. You are articulate!”

After a few moments, Michelle responds, “Well, I’m glad you all enjoyed the presentation since I’ll be back next month for the second segment, but I really must be going now if I’m going to make it to my next appointment.” Michelle quickly logs off.

Brad and Collette sit in silence as everyone exits the meeting. Brad and Collette have a previously scheduled call with Ana in a few minutes. Collette gets on their company chat to message Brad. She sees Brad’s typing awareness indicator appear but doesn’t wait and types “Should we say something to Ana about that comment at the end?” Brad quickly gives Collette’s message a thumbs up and his typing awareness indicator reappears “LOL, I was messaging you the exact same thing!”

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