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Lack of data
We tend to operate under this assumption that if there is no data there is no problem. This is undoubtedly true in quality, where we look at metrics. The first thing leadership and/or the board will ask is “if you think there is a problem, please show me the data!” But in this country, we have a long way to go to improve the collection of self-reported race, ethnicity and language data. In addition, Asian race category encompasses a very heterogenous group of a multitude of ethnicities, cultures and languages. Very rarely do we get to a granular level in this racial category, and instead default to “Asian” which then obscures racial disparities for different ethnic groups.

Lack of leadership
It’s tough to acknowledge power and influence in a country built on the foundational concept that we are all equal. But those who wield power and influence have an obligation to name the elephant in the room. Regardless of intent, the silence from leadership on racism, structural racism, bias and micro-aggressions, can be perceived as a message that this is not important. 

Lack of support and validation
In general, people can get behind the idea that dismantling racism is complex and there is no one solution. However, on a personal level, perfectionism takes over and people are afraid of not saying the right response, the most meaningful thing, that offers a pathway to a solution or makes everyone in the room feel better. This fear of imperfection enables many to stay silent by not saying anything at all. I often hear this from many colleagues and friends in the form of “I didn’t know what to say, so I just didn’t say anything at all.” This can be perceived as a lack of support and validation of the pain and trauma that people of color experience day to day.

Lack of community 
When I think back to my own childhood, very rarely did my mother or my elders talk openly about racism with us. There was no sense of community or support on how to deal with discrimination, bias or anti-Asian hate. There were no lessons passed down from previous generations on how to protect ourselves against discrimination or anti-Asian hate. Many of my Asian friends and colleagues have expressed similar observations in their families. I am fortunate that in my current role I have adapted to speak openly about this with my children and give them a place where they can process and validate any discrimination they might experience. I often think of the Black community in comparison, where there is a sense of fellowship and community on these topics and the ability to talk openly about racism, discrimination, and bias and to name it. There is no silence on these topics.

Much of this work has an element of risk. Taking risks means not being silent and requires all of us to speak up about racial injustices. Get comfortable being uncomfortable!

Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH

Silence Matters


Dear Friend, 


May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month. As I reflect on my own experiences, I remember last year, after the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta, how shocked I was by the lack of outrage and silence among friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Silence has a devastating impact in racial justice work, because silence is a message of its own. Silence matters. There are many ways we can be silent in this work, or silence others.