Anti-Asian hatred is spreading to LinkedIn

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Ingrid Fung didn’t expect her LinkedIn post to cause a stir. She had written about escalating anti-Asian violence and posted a graphic showing that attacks on Asian Americans had risen dramatically over the past year. The post may have drawn racist comments on Twitter or Facebook, but this was the world’s largest professional social network – one where people had to use their real name and state their employer. What was the worst they would say?

“This statistic is worthless and from a questionable source,” wrote one user who objected to the data collected by the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. “… I wouldn’t be surprised if AAPI isn’t [Chinese Communist Party] supported. Another user said she was promoting “CCP stories.”

Fung, a venture capitalist, was shocked. “It felt like a violation,” she says. “You wouldn’t expect this to happen in a professional space.” She reported the first post on LinkedIn, but was told it did not violate the company’s community policy.

(LinkedIn told The edge that it reversed its decision and took action on the post, noting that the “Community Policy makes clear what’s okay and what’s not okay on LinkedIn.”)

Fung’s experience is part of a growing wave of hatred against Asian American and Canadian professionals. The trend shows the extent to which anti-Asian racism has been normalized, in part because of the misleading idea that the Asian population is homogeneous. “We’ve been very clear about the ways in which the model minority myth has wreaked havoc on our communities,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate. “It suggests that Asian-American communities are not in trouble.”

Indeed, the income gap in the United States is greatest among Asians, according to the Pew Research CenterBetween 1970 and 2016, the economic gains of low-income Asians lagged behind other poor communities. Still, overall, Asians are still the highest-earning racial group in the US – a fact that some LinkedIn users chose to cite when denouncing anti-Asian violence.

“Statistics show that Asians are the most successful immigrant group in the US,” one wrote. “I don’t believe Asians are more targeted than everyone else.”

Kulkarni says the xenophobia is related to the language used by former President Donald Trump, who called COVID-19 the “kung flu”, “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” on multiple occasions. Stop AAPI Hate National Report for 2020 documented incidents of harassment and assault where attackers directly quoted Trump’s ideas. “Some of the people armed Trump themselves,” said Kulkarni. “These people get their leadership from their former president.” The CCP conspiracy theories in Fung’s answers support that claim.

On LinkedIn, the comments are powered by the platform’s determination to become more than just a resume repository. Years ago, it launched a personalized news feed, and in 2020 inexplicably launched its own version of Snapchat Stories. The features were largely home to upbeat corporate missives until black users started posting about racial discrimination in the workplace amid the George Floyd protests.

The posts put LinkedIn content moderators in the “incendiary position to determine which mode of race-related speech is right for the virtual workplace of 706 million users”, Ashanti M. Martin enrolled The New York TimesThe company didn’t seem to welcome the challenge, and Black users told us Times their posts disappeared under “vague rules of decorum”.

In a statement by e-mail to The edgeGreg Snapper, a LinkedIn spokesperson, said there have been some “significant shifts” in the way members discuss workplace issues in the past year. “And at the same time, we have seen an increase in member reports on posts, comments and messages,” he added. “We took a number of measures to protect our members who place high demands on secure conversations, given the professional context of LinkedIn, and we totally agreed.”

The question of what language is accepted on LinkedIn is reminiscent of the ongoing debate about putting your ‘whole self’ to work. Mike Robbins, a self-proclaimed thought leader, wrote a book on the topic and said that people can “ work better, lead better, and be more engaged and fulfilled ” when they appear “ full and authentic, ” rather than hiding who they are. . to be.

Unfortunately, he soon realized that reality was much more complicated. “It’s okay to put your whole self to work when you’re white. And cisgender. And masculine. And straight ahead. Or whatever,” he said DigidayBut such acceptance did not always extend to other identities.

Some Asian professionals who spoke The edge said they had learned to do the opposite: keep their heads bowed and concentrate on their work. “From personal experience, the way you are raised is very purposeful,” said Kane Ma, former UNC at Chapel Hill basketball player and chief technology officer at Kamo Digital. “Sometimes I think it leads to the minimization of other topics, such as talking about racism or discrimination.”

After the Atlanta spa shooting, more people began to speak out about anti-Asian violence. Ma posted about a hate crime he’d witnessed in Chapel Hill, where he was jumped on by three men who said, “Are you going to try some kung fu on us?” before breaking his skull. “As an Asian American and person of color, I have experienced the recurring theme of racism in America,” he wrote.

It was the first time he spoke publicly about the attack – and he did so to raise awareness among corporate executives. “There are leaders of organizations who have a lot of influence on the people who work for them,” he says. “So I think sparking a discussion or at least introspection can be really productive.”

But almost immediately Ma realized he’d hit a nerve with white supremacists. “Kane Ma, maybe you should read this article and stop implying that whites are the de facto source of this hatred,” wrote one user. “Yeah, what about the Arab who just killed all the white people in Boulder?” replied another. “Funny, don’t hear race hacking about that, huh?”

Ma says the comments didn’t surprise him. “If I had posted this on Facebook, I’m sure it would have gotten worse,” he says.

For Ingrid Fung, what caught the eye of the LinkedIn comments was that users felt confident using their real profiles. “What made me most uncomfortable was that people were fine with linking their professional identity to what they said,” she explains. “They were so comfortable, they didn’t expect there to be any consequences.”

When she emailed the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to report the man who said her statistics were “ nonsense ” and suggested Stop AAPI Hate was backed by the Chinese Communist Party, the Assistant Vice Chancellor responded of policy and compliance say that while the school did not support the man’s statements, the response was “limited” because he was only an ad hoc instructor. He then Fung sent a public statement on “politeness and inclusion”.

She says the interaction disappointed her. Her goal was not to fire the man; she just wanted the school to talk to him so he would know he had gone too far.

The lack of action was compounded by the fact that Fung says she has received numerous requests from organizations seeking to increase diversity in their boards over the past year. “I feel like I’m being held up at these organizations to cover up other people’s lack of action and racism,” she says.

The responses Fung and Ma received on LinkedIn show how difficult it is for people to understand racism against Asian Americans and Canadians. Both could speak out in part because they are successful – as venture capitalists and business executives respectively, they hold relative positions of power compared to other parts of the Asian community.

That fact also makes it easy for people to fall back on stereotypes and dismiss their concerns as complaints from wealthy professionals. These comments imply that certain types of work prevent them from experiencing any form of racism – or that their experience must be representative of the entire Asian community.

In the case of anti-Asian discrimination, that perceived success was both the catalyst for resentment and the reason why the lived experience of the Asian community was repeatedly denied, even on a social network for professionals.