Act To Change Applauds White House Memorandum Condemning Anti-AAPI Racism 

For immediate release

January 28, 2021

Act To Change applauds the Biden-Harris administration for acknowledging the increase in racism and xenophobia that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for issuing an executive order with the aim of achieving racial equity in the United States.

President Joe Biden issued a memorandum recognizing that our community was put at harm due to xenophobic rhetoric surrounding the Coronavirus. To have our administration recognize the painful history of racial discrimination that our community has been facing for generations is a necessary step. This acknowledgement comes in a welcome contrast to the constant use of racial slurs by the previous administration, and their refusal to use the correct and scientific name for the virus.

The memorandum also recognizes that irrational fears of the Coronavirus led to increasing rates of bullying against AAPIs. 1 in 4 AAPI youth had reported facing bullying during the pandemic, and we heard many accounts of such incidents directly from students who spoke at our Classroom Convos webinar and participated in the Homeroom with Tan France workshop series. Within 5 months of its launch, the Stop AAPI Hate online reporting tool received over 2,500 reports of discrimination or hate, of which over 14% were from young people under the age of 20. 

The virus of racism has taken a horrific toll on our youth, and we are proud of the current administration for taking action to protect our community. President Biden has condemned and denounced “acts of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against AAPI communities” and directed the “COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to consider issuing guidance describing best practices for advancing cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs.”

Act To Change believes that this memorandum is a first step towards ending the hate against our community and restoring racial equity. We believe that knowledge and kindness are the solutions to ending the wave of hatred that has devastated our community. We encourage our community to use the Covid-19 Racism Resources on our website and continue to report any cases of discrimination at stopaapihate.org.

Act To Change will continue our work until every child feels safe in their identity, and can live in a world free from bullying, hate and discrimination.

“I’m Speaking”

Vice President Kamala Devi Harris knows how to stand up against bullying.

As an interracial child of immigrant parents growing up in America, she faced bullying in her school.

As an attorney, politician, and Senator working in fields dominated by white men, she has had to raise her voice just to be heard, even when she’s the only person in the room saying the right thing.

As the first woman, Black and South Asian Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris will face her share of criticism, bullying and hatred, but with her resilience, compassion and dedication to equity, we believe she will rise above the hate and be an example to youth across our country.

Harris’s oath to become Vice President today sends a message to children in all marginalized communities, a message that says, Yes, your stories matter.

As Harris said, she may be the first woman in this office, but she won’t be the last.

In kindergarten, when a boy grabbed her best friend’s clay art project and broke it, 5-year old Harris stepped in and stood up for her friend. When Harris was bullied by a Senator who mocked her name saying “Kamala mala mala … whatever”, the whole nation stood up for her, storming Twitter with beautiful #MyNameIs messages that explained the history, the culture, and the legacies of our ancestors that our names carry.

 

“#MyNameIs Maulik. In Sanskrit it means ‘Original.’ In Hindi, ‘Precious.’ My grandfather said it’s ‘the origin of thought’ – the unknown place from which ideas spring forth,” says Maulik Pancholy, co-founder of Act To Change.

“#MyNameIs, 雷小小, which means thunder small small. I liked to think I was Pikachu when I was growing up – it made me feel cute and powerful!” says Belinda Lei, Managing Director of Act To Change.

“#MyNameIs Saad. In Arabic it means happiness and luck. In Urdu, it means blessed, and I truly feel that everyday,” says Saad Qureshi, Board Member of Act To Change.

“#MyNameIs 유민 Yumin. Yu means beauty and Min means gem. In Korean, siblings  often share one syllable so my sister’s name is 유진 Yujin!” says Board Member Mindy Kordash-Shim.

 

AAPI youth are no strangers to having our names butchered by our classmates, or being bullied for our accents, our lunches, or our appearances. With Harris in the White House, AAPI youth can confidently carry and claim our cultures.

When Harris took the Vice President debate stage in October, the AAPI community again poured their support on social media, with the hashtag #AAPISheRose. We shared stories of our immigrant mothers and grandmothers, many of whom fled war, abuse or political unrest, and sacrificed everything in their lives to raise us.

In that same debate, when Mike Pence repeatedly interrupted VP Harris, she reclaimed her time with a firm “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking”, giving a voice to every woman who has ever been talked over at the workplace. 

VP Harris continues to be an active advocate against bullying. She kicked off the Stand Up for AAPI Youth During COVID anti-bullying program, which offers schools lesson plans that address issues such as the model minority myth, implicit biases, microaggressions, self-acceptance, cultural appropriation and more. During the COVID pandemic, 1 in 4 kids of Asian descent have reported being bullied due to their race. When 14 year old Tyler Gordon, who was bullied severely in school for his stutter, painted a portrait of VP Harris, she personally called him to express gratitude and praise his talent.

VP Harris’s Inauguration today also serves as a reminder of the importance of appreciating and embracing our intersectionalities. We are also reminded today of how much stronger we are when our communities band together. Harris’s election victory has sparked many critical discussions within AAPI families to confront our implicit anti-Blackness. When we celebrate the first South Asian woman taking the oath today, we must also remember to celebrate the Black woman, and thank generations of Black activists who made it possible for us to enjoy our civil, voting, immigration, and interracial marriage rights.

However, many AAPI parents still believe “everyone can make it with enough hard work” perpetuating the Model Minority Myth. Many of us are still reminded by our families to not stay out in the sun for too long, lest our skin become too dark. These racist beliefs and actions are still inherent in our community, and it is upon us to have constructive conversations to eradicate anti-Blackness.

Actor and activist Ryan Alexander Holmes, who like Madame VP Harris is 100% Black and 100% Asian, is joining us this Saturday, along with co-founder Maulik Pancholy and a panel of youth leaders, to discuss ways to Talk To Our Parents About Anti-Blackness. We are grateful to Leadership Conference’s Education Fund’s “Black Justice Is Our Justice” project for sponsoring #LeadershipConvos, and hope you’ll tune in! 

 

RSVP for #Leadership Convos here.

Saturday, Jan 23 at 12-1PM PT/ 3-4PM ET

Meet Managing Director and Bestselling Author Belinda Lei

 

In 2019, approximately only 9% of main characters in U.S. books were of Asian descent, 12% were Black, and only 3% of total books included a LGBTQIAP+ character (CCBC).

 

When minority kids do not see themselves in the books they read and the media they consume, they begin to feel like their stories don’t matter. Act To Change’s Managing Director Belinda Lei felt the same way growing up, and she is now changing the narrative for the next generation, with her best-selling debut novel, Not THAT Rich

Gossip Girl meets Crazy Rich Asians in this satirical, juicy and dramatic debut novel about a group of private high schoolers in an affluent Southern Californian suburb. The novel reached Amazon’s #1 New Release and #1 Bestselling status within a week of publishing for Asian American YA Fiction and Immigration & Emigration Fiction. 

Having been raised to almost imitate the model minority stereotype—the myth that all Asian Americans are a law-abiding, hardworking, overachieving, silent, and also (in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic) a virus-spreading minority group, Belinda is hoping to shatter the model minority myth with her novel while also supporting AAPI youth in her role as Managing Director of Act To Change. 

 

In a recent blog post about “Why it’s important to have a diverse bookshelf,” Belinda writes: 

“By writing Not THAT Rich, I wanted to present a set of fun (and dramatic!) experiences that also exposed young adult readers to a cast of characters that reflected my world growing up – one that reflected the ethnic suburban enclaves that were part of my world. My hope for the book is that it emphasizes the diversity of Asian American culture, but also offers up the common challenges that teenagers all experience today – educational and familial pressures, identity struggles, and peer pressure.”

 

Having been brought up in a strong Asian American community like the San Gabriel Valley, Belinda got to witness firsthand the many different shades of being an Asian American as the daughter of first-generation Chinese immigrants. And many around her face the following dilemmas:

    • Where is personal identity in between two distinctly different cultural identities?
    • What does it really mean to be Asian American?
    • What’s the right way to be Asian American?

These are the questions that many characters in Not THAT Rich ask themselves on a regular basis. The truth is that there is no one single, or one correct way to be Asian American. That’s the myth that Belinda’s book is aiming to change.

Every Asian American, every child, every person has a unique identity and story, and there is no need to fit into a mold. Not THAT Rich inspires every child to shine and be their true selves without any qualms.

 

Interested in learning more? Check out Belinda’s journey at notthatrich.com and the e-book or paperback on Amazon. Connect with Belinda on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.