diversity and inclusion
In order to stay true to our values of diversity and inclusion, our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was launched in November 2020. Today, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is composed of more than 20 passionate, hardworking members from various cultures and identities — each of whom brings a unique perspective to this task force.
As an organization made up of mostly high school and college students, we are very thankful and appreciative of the grace our audience has extended to us, and we will always strive to do better.
in November 2020, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force created the One Year Plan for Diversity and Inclusion, which will serve as a framework of development for diversity in Dear Asian Youth. You can read the statement below.
Dear Asian Youth,
Hi! We are the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, the newest department addition to DAY. As a department that was created with the intention to diversify DAY content and ensure that DAY is a safe, inclusive, and diverse space for all Asian youth, we took it upon ourselves to author a diversity plan that addresses the needs for diversity and how lack of diversity and inclusivity play a role in Asian activism. DAY is committed to our values of learning and growing, both of which we hope are reflected in this document. We thank you for your support of DAY and for taking the time to read this statement.
The motivation behind authoring this diversity plan rests on the sole fact that we cannot be proponents of social justice, equity, and equality without championing those same ideals and values within our organization. It is no secret that the majority of Dear Asian Youth is of Southeast and East Asian descent; we are not approaching this matter in an accusatory way, rather highlighting that there is a disparity of diversity and representation in the DAY team. By writing this diversity plan, we hope that as an organization, we can commit to concrete measures that will further diversify our team and the environment at DAY. In the latter part of this document, we will propose solutions and detailed plans to increase diversity and inclusion at DAY. The intent of the publication of this document is to encourage transparency among our organization, audience, and team members so that we are able to hold ourselves accountable for fulfilling the things promised in this document. This one-year diversity plan will serve as a framework of development for the diversity within our organization and also as an accountability measure to ensure that we are doing the work that was promised within this document. The DITF has been looking through DAY’s content and demographics and we have come to the conclusion that there is a significant lack of representation of Central, South, and West Asians, as well as Southeast Asians outside of the Filipino community. This lack of representation gives room for errors in DAY’s content and can lead to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes, continued use of offensive terminology, and the spreading of misinformation.
DAY is an organization that has made a name for itself within the realm of Asian activism, and we have to make sure that we are not aiding the persistent, Western misconceptions of what it means to be Asian. The lack of representation within DAY’s social media content also extends to Asians who do not fit into a heteronormative, cis-gendered, and able-bodied molds. As an organization that aims to promote and celebrate Asian identities, we also have the responsibility and moral obligation to point out the parts of our cultures and identities that may not be the most deserving of celebration. By cherry-picking the beautiful parts of our cultures without calling out outdated ideologies, we are doing a great disservice to Asians who are underrepresented in terms other than ethnicity. It is important for our organization to call out the colourism, sexism, and ableism that runs rampant in our communities. It is also imperative that we specifically call out the anti-Blackness and lack of awareness of Indigenous topics that is prevalent within our communities. We need to recognize that although Asians are a minority group and are discriminated against, non-Black/Indigenous Asians can and do benefit from the marginalization of Black and Indigenous groups due to our perceived proximity to whiteness stemming from the model minority myth.
We want to aim to remove the naturalized Eurocentric lens that has become a part of the information we see and are exposed to. Eurocentrism is a worldview that is centered around western civilization, culture, societal norms, and is inherently biased against non-western civilizations. The Eurocentric lens becomes harmful because it leaves out historical accounts that form our histories and cultures, inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes, one-sided accounts, non-European perspectives, and individuals of non-European descent that become portrayed as “backward, incompetent, and under-developed.” The most harmful thing that a Eurocentric lens does is reinforce the white savior trope, fueling an “us versus them” mentality. Asian contributions have been largely overlooked and ignored, as well as the widespread integration of other cultures into western standards, most of which is done in an unwilling and systematically imposed manner. Eurocentrism enforces western complacency and unrealistic western ideals.
The Model Minority Myth feeds on perpetual stereotypes of individuals from Asian descent being perceived as more intelligent, diligent, and law-abiding than the average citizen. While, at first glance, these might seem like “positive stereotypes,” these unfounded beliefs place high expectations on Asians creating potential feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a lack of individualistic identity which supports the myth of Asians being perpetual foreigners. This myth also enforces the belief that there are fundamental differences among various racial groups which pit other people of color and minority communities against each other which, in turn, hinders solidarity and alliance efforts. The Model Minority Myth is often used to help perpetuate an anti-Black agenda by denying or downplaying the impact of systemic racism, discrimination, and prejudice against people of color. This pits people of color against one another, creating a detrimental hierarchy within minority communities, and distracts from striving for liberation for all. In addition, the model minority myth erases historical racism against Asians and ignores injustices of the past including, but not limited to, the US’s ongoing Muslim Ban agaisnt several Asian countries, the Patriot Act of 2001 (decreased civil rights for West and South Asian Americans), the Japanese Internment in 1940, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the country’s long relationship with yellow peril.
One thing that we also aim to do is to address the inaccuracies that feed into prejudice. People who come across our content view us as “experts” on Asian perspectives. Sometimes our content is biased against certain Asian identities. Our audience assumes our content is written by the people it represents, which means they are taking our prejudice as fact. This is undermining the voices of the oppressed. There will be kids at school who will be silenced by other kids who cite us as a source for why that oppression isn’t real. This is the very opposite of what we hope to achieve as an organization. The inaccuracies are not fueled solely by our own biases, but also by the biases in the sources we use. It is wrong for news organizations to racially profile Asians, but it is even more wrong for us to do so as an Asian organization. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our audience to address this problem.
DAY Diversity and Inclusion Task Force
Dear Asian Youth is committed to the appreciation, celebration, respect, and welcoming of each individual and their cultural backgrounds, heritage, and identity. We strive to create a positive, secure, supportive, and safe environment for all members of our organization and all members of our larger DAY community. We are committed to raising intersectional awareness about social injustices that affect various Asian communities while also raising awareness about issues within our global community. Dear Asian Youth’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force strives to create a more diverse and inclusive space for its members and community by ensuring that the content we put out, people that we onboard, and organizations that we work with are all proponents of equity, equality, diversity, and inclusivity.
We believe that it is imperative to establish base level understanding of certain concepts that are relevant in the realm of intersectional activism. We want to define these concepts and also define how they pertain to DAY.
Merriam-Webster defines “representation” as the act of serving as the counterpart or image of something. At DAY, when we say representation, we mean that we would like to see people from diverse Asian backgrounds be a part of this organization. While the definition above provides a very surface level answer as to what representation is, at DAY, we value the boundary between representation and tokenization. When seeing individual Asian diasporas being represented, we will not tokenize the individuals/let them be tokenized because of their background.
The cherry-picking of our cultures is the act of suppressing evidence and selecting certain facts in order to present a topic in a desired light than what is actually seen in reality. Many news and media outlets like to choose certain facts of a group of people or events to paint a false narrative. This not only leads to fake information and propaganda, but it is also a way for respective ethnicities or cultures to be targeted and to be put under a bad light.
Tokenism is defined as “the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort” by Merriam-Webster. Mentioning that a particular problem is worse for certain Asian identities without addressing the cause of the disparity or the unique struggles faced by the more oppressed group (e.g. centering a post around East Asian perspectives and throwing in only one non-specific line about how other Asian groups experience the problem more without addressing why/how just so that the post is technically about more than one region of Asia). All Asians have issues that deserve to be represented. East Asian, straight Asian, able-bodied Asian issues are all important and deserve their own space in our content. But it is equally important to uplift other, less commonly heard voices. Only showcasing under-represented groups in a one-dimensional way. For instance, only mentioning queer Asians in the context of the prejudice they face without also celebrating queer Asian achievements or featuring queer Asians in posts that are not centered around the queer experience. Expecting one person to be able to speak for their entire community is also a form of tokenism.
The DITF recognizes that the Asian community is composed of different individuals from vastly different walks of life and it is important to us that we all have an idea of what inclusion means within our organization. As defined by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, the word “inclusion” denotes the collective. It is about embracing and respecting everyone’s differences and making a conscious choice to ensure that everyone feels represented and included. It is also about being aware how our content can be exclusionary and taking the right steps to correct that content.
The definition of authority means that an individual with “authority” has the right to rule over something such as truths. When we mention the word, “authority” at DAY, we mean that no one person, regardless of how unique their background is, is able to speak on behalf of their entire community. This one person, regardless of who they are, will never be representative of the entire population and therefore should not be treated as such. This is very similar to the concept of “tokenism.” At DAY, we are committed to ensuring that opinions and experiences are respected, but not used to make generalizations about the entire community.
Implicit/unconscious biases refers to the biases we are unaware we hold. These biases can affect our understanding, interactions, and decisions. People have preferences and aversions towards certain things and people that are a result of the stereotypes that infiltrate our actions without our conscious knowledge. Implicit biases vary depending on an individual’s personal experiences and what they were exposed to growing up.
These are just some of the definitions that the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force found necessary to bring awareness to. One cannot engage in intersectional activism without ensuring that these things are addressed. We will continue to update the document with additional definitions and information that are needed.
DAY Instagram Account Data Collection
On the DAY Instagram account, there are 144 total posts (as of November 2020). East Asians are often referred to as “Asians” on the DAY instagram, but those hailing from other regions are referred to exclusively by their regional names and identities. For example, not directly from the DAY instagram, “Asians use chopsticks. West Asians use their hands.” This is inherently othering towards other Asians that are not of East Asian descent. One thing that we did notice was that Southeast Asians are called “Asian” when they are being portrayed positively and “Southeast Asian” when they are not. This creates an “othering” that places East Asian people at the top of an imaginary Asian hierarchy. Another thing that was noted was that there has never been a post on DAY’s instagram that is exclusively aimed at Central Asians.
DAY Committee Breakdown
In efforts to gauge what each department of Dear Asian Youth needed from the DAY Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, the directors of each DAY department met to discuss what was lacking in terms of diversity and inclusion. Here is a breakdown of the things that were discussed and the problems that were identified: