Issue 163 — March 22, 2021
First and foremost, I stand and Take The Lead, as an organization, stands in solidarity with Asian Americans, and against the rising hate crimes and harassment against them.
Since hearing the terrible news of the murders of eight people, six of them Asian women, in Atlanta massage parlors on March 16, the words of the song from Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1949 musical South Pacific have been repeating in my mind:
“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
The song was specifically aimed at the anti-Asian prejudice and opposition to interracial marriage that was prevalent at the time. And it was no accident that two grandsons of Jewish immigrants to America with experience of oppression in their DNA not only wrote the song but insisted that it be left in the show when pressured to remove it because it was deemed too controversial.
The song was called “communist” and a “threat to American way of life.” Meaning of course a threat to white male hegemony.
High ideals, but a low reality.
Americans rightly pride ourselves on the founding principles of equality, liberty and justice for all. Yet Black enslavement and genocide of indigenous people are equally part of our founding history. Laws singling out Asians for discrimination are embedded in our history.
And women? Our equal rights are still not guaranteed by the constitution. The pay gap averages 82 cents to a man’s dollar, with women of color earning considerably less. I cofounded Take The Lead because American women held a paltry 18% of the top leadership positions across all sectors just seven years ago.
When we see how much more effective countries with women leaders have been managing COVID, we can speculate that a nation founded equally by women and men might have come closer to living its lofty ideals.
Democracy Fund program associate Lea Trusty wrote in Medium:
“This week’s tragedy could have been avoided. For months, AAPI women in journalism have been sounding the alarm on the dramatic rise in racist and xenophobic attacks. Unfortunately, their calls were not only largely ignored by the public and policy makers, they were also minimized within their own news outlets. This historic silencing of the AAPI community, and AAPI women especially, must stop.”
All in all, the Atlanta rampage occurred in the toxic intersection of racism, sexism, poverty, and anti-immigrant screed exacerbated by leaders who blame coronavirus on China and laced with mental illness and access to guns.
While the focus has been on anti-Asian hatred, it is critical to highlight that the Atlanta killer said straight out he was trying to eradicate his sex addiction. His was a hate crime directed against women who happened to be Asian. And they happened to be Asian because of the particular sexualization and objectification of Asian women. Remember the names of those killed to honor them: Soon Chung Park; Hyun Jung Grant; Suncha Kim; Yong Yue; Delaina Ashley Yaun; Paul Andre Michels; Xiaojie Tan; and Daoyou Feng.
So how can we help?
Linda Jue, Editor-at-Large of 100Reporters shared this in an email to many of us who asked that question: “You’ve asked what you can do to support me, my family & my community. What we need most right now is to build a growing network of allyship among non-Asians who know how to respond when they witness incidents of harassment & violence. To start, I urge you to take the free online trainings available. Such a widespread act of solidarity would do much to counter the overt and covert expressions of hate that are being fueled by the pandemic as well the heated political rhetoric about China.”
You can apply this good advice as well to the rest of those who are impacted on a daily basis by bias, harassment, and violence due simply to who they are. Because no one is immune. For example, I have two grandsons who are half Asian. And despite my several characteristics of privilege, I have been the brunt of antisemitic and a vast array of anti-woman attacks due to my decades of work for women’s rights. Think for a moment about what your own vulnerabilities are and you will want to step up to support the most vulnerable among us and to prevent hatred and violence against anyone. It is on us all to create a culture of inclusion. Plan on joining me here on April 15 to work on this.
Which brings me back to the poignant words of the song from South Pacific. It’s often paired with “The Children Are Listening” for good reason.
Listen to it here, take it to heart, and teach the children well.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.