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Seeing the Forest from the Trees

Dear Friend,


May 25th, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd. It has been, without a doubt, a tumultuous year for racial justice. Looking back, I wonder, are we in a better place than before? It certainly seems like we, as a nation, are paying 

attention to racism in a way that was different pre-COVID. For a good perspective, read Nathalie Baptiste’s commentary for Mother Jones here.

I still believe that the hard work starts with ourselves. Systems are built by people, and until we take the time to self-reflect and turn our lens to where we have the most influence, changes will be incremental at best. After the Atlanta shooting spree that killed six women of Asian descent, I was shocked by the lack of outrage and silence among friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Even in the face of mounting evidence about the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in our country (for data click here), there seemed to be a debate on whether this was a crime against women or a racial hate crime, rather than acknowledging that it can be both.

I have been doing this work for more than a decade and half but suddenly I was unsure of whether Asian Americans were really included in this fight for racial justice. One thing I realized is that there is a silence in our community about the hate, discrimination, and racism we face daily. We need to come together, share our stories, and educate others about the discrimination against Asians in the US (it starts as early as the 1700s). This common misperception that Asians are a model minority has not delivered on its promise of breaking the glass ceiling. Forbes top 20 CEOs are still mostly male and mostly White (to read click here).

I think we need to take a hard look at the narrative we are creating. Certainly, there seems to be a bias in both a) who experiences racism and b) who is the perpetrator. Racism is so complex, insidious, and pervasive that to take a binary view of it is to miss the bigger picture. Generally, it’s important to ask, “What system gets to stay in place, and who benefits from this?” That is seeing the forest from the trees.

Let’s come together in this fight for racial justice!


Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH