May is Asian and Pacific American Heritage (APAH) Month, which offers an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the multitudes of Asian history and culture. Garnering this deeper understanding feels especially important this year. The AAPI community has experienced 6,603 hate incidents against them from March 19, 2020, to March 31, 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate’s national report. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, there has also been a 164% increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community in 2021 alone.
For Asian and Pacific American Heritage (APAH) Month, we wanted to create an editorial series that showcases the faces of our Asian employees to gain their authentic perspective of how it’s like to be Asian at work. Our goal for the Asian@Work Dairies campaign is to capture internal employees’ raw and honest experiences juggling working from home, taking care of their families, and witnessing hate crimes within the Asian communities.
Glassdoor Asian Impact Network – our Pan Asian Employee Resource Group’s mission is to celebrate and support Pan Asian multiculturalism and cultivate a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace. GAIN aims to elevate Glassdoor’s Asian community’s voices and empower our members in business decisions, product development, recruiting, and workplace culture. Additionally, they strive to foster professional development, mentorship, and leadership opportunities for their members.
We want to capture these transparent and genuine conversations and share them externally to act as an example of how other employers should shed some light on this issue by offering support to this subgroup of employees. Learn more about Alvin Kuang, B2C Product Designer at Glassdoor.
Glassdoor: Thank you so much for choosing to participate in the Asian@Work Diaries series. Could you please introduce yourself and how you identify?
Alvin Kuang: Thank you for having me! I choose to identify as a second-generation, Gay Chinese American who grew up in the East Bay of Northern California. I work as a Product Designer on the Glassdoor consumer engagement team.
Glassdoor: If comfortable, could you speak about the intersectionality of being gay and Asian, and can you share any personal experiences?
Alvin Kuang: I think for me, one of the biggest things is navigating this intersectionality, where it’s a combination of race and sexuality together. My parents are immigrants to the United States. They don’t really have a lot of context or understanding about LGBTQ history or even the experience of who identifies in the LGBTQ community. When growing up, my parents were very supportive and gave me everything I needed to survive, but there came a certain point when I realized that there were specific things they didn’t really know how to support me in.
I personally don’t feel any anger towards them because I felt given the context of how they grew up and what they’ve been through, it was hard to expect that they would be able to proactively discover resources for me while raising their children, taking care of their own families, and building a new life in a foreign country. So, instead I had to lean heavily on my chosen family, which consisted of a lot of my friends who were extremely supportive, understanding, and open to me discussing my discovery process pertaining to my intersectional identity, particularly being queer and asian. To this day, I weigh the importance of my chosen family almost on the same level as my biological family since they both contributed greatly to my self-development and who I am today albeit from different aspects of my personhood.
Glassdoor: Thank you so much for sharing. It’s pretty layered. Leading into more into the person of color side, have you ever encountered them model minority myth in your career? And if so, how, how has it affected you?
Alvin Kuang: This question is a little bit harder to answer because the model minority myth is not always so explicit. It has become almost integrated into these normalized interactions or expectations, especially within corporate settings. It’s tough to identify if it’s actively happening to you or maybe something that was part of a behind the scenes discussion that you weren’t included in. I think where the model minority myth comes in is that sometimes it doesn’t matter if you actually do speak up more in meetings, if the other person is already biased in their way of viewing you, even if you’re doing it more, they won’t see it due to their own biases that are beyond your control. You can be doing the work, but if the other person isn’t trained to understand their biases, then you are essentially at a roadblock. That’s why I think it’s important to raise awareness and educate others like policy makers around these concepts to bring in the perspective and impact positive change. It’s also important because I believe there are likely many Asian-Americans who grew up benefiting from the model minority myth without realizing what it was, how systemic it is, and how harmful the effects are on their own and other marginalized communities – ultimately leading to the perpetuation and normalization of it. Increasing educational awareness within our communities and outside of our communities helps to benefit everyone so that they can develop more self-awareness, check their own biases and begin to look internally, questioning the things that they were taught or brought up with that they didn’t even realize or question as the status quo.
Glassdoor: I know that the model minority myth is specific to Asian culture, but those bias undertones can be seen across the POC spectrum. It’s so important to, like you said, bring awareness to dismantle these oppressive systems that we as people of color are intrinsically buying into because it leads up to success and stability. With that said, how do you think companies can mitigate and solve biases when it comes to the Asian community?
Alvin Kuang: I truly believe that only through unity can we create a larger impact and change towards building a better world. Creating the spaces where we can have people learn vulnerably and be willing to sign-up for educational programs like Glassdoor’s allyship workshops that have been being conducted are great examples of how to foster this dialogue and be more open to discussing it and asking questions.
And then hopefully, those that are in control of creating those policies can have more insight into those decisions being made since they are better equipped to empathize with those they would be effecting. Additionally, other folks from marginalized communities can share their perspectives and get a more shared common understanding leading to more solidarity. A lot of times, there are many more patterns and similarities that we share than we may realize, regardless of our cultural upbringing or background.
Glassdoor: Totally, we’re more alike than different. Pivoting to what’s going on in the world. There’s been really an unfortunate uptake of hate crimes against the Asian community, as we’ve seen in 2020 and now in 2021. How do you feel about these recent hate crimes against your community, and how has it affected you?
Alvin Kuang: Honestly, it’s been very disheartening. I think it’s excruciating because this family concept is just very huge in Asian culture. So, when you see on the news that there are other folks who look like your relatives being attacked, whether they’re older women, young kids, fathers, etc. it feels like it is a member of your own family. I think that’s how a lot of our community processes these incidents. So you can imagine that if you’re constantly hearing your family members are being attacked, it makes you feel really fearful because members of your community are seen as relatives who have taken care of and raised you.
I think it’s really shocking for many Asian Americans to realize that the very thing they’ve been doing, which is “playing by the rules,” isn’t necessarily working and is actually demonstrating the model minority myth in action. Asians are starting to take a more active role in defining their existence and presence which is inspiring. As difficult as it’s been to see all of these hate crimes, what gives me hope is that there’s a lot more awareness being raised within the Asian community around the model minority myth and how far that expands as well as amongst other marginalized groups.
The unity that I’m starting to see in terms of support both within the Asian community, that is so diverse, and outside of the Asian community is incredibly compelling. Prior to the influx of hate crimes, the model minority myth was working so well that a lot of Asians didn’t even really know where they stood within the social fabric of the country. Now, things are becoming clearer and folks are taking a more proactive role in amplifying their voices. Unfortunately, it has taken something as serious as what’s going on right now to have this sort of deeper acknowledgment.
Glassdoor: Thank you. That was so beautifully said. Lastly, how has Glassdoor been supportive of your community during this?
Alvin Kuang: Glassdoor has been really great in the sense as they’ve been highlighting a lot of the GAIN ERG work that’s being done. The organization of the connection circles for current events and sharing what’s affecting various other marginalized communities have been a great way to connect with humanity. I was amazed by the difference that it made for me and being able to actually have these candid conversations with other colleagues who I may or may not work with regularly and to be open about how tired we may be feeling or how we’re processing all the events that are going on while still coming to work. To share and connect across experiences that may or may not be similar to you is something truly amazing.
Glassdoor: Thank you so much, Alvin. I appreciate your time. And just your honesty in sharing your experiences.