How anti-Asian racism manifested at work in the pandemic

Published: 15 May 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged any notion that Asian Americans are a privileged, white-adjacent group skirting above racism. To more fully understand how COVID-19 affected the racial dynamics experienced by Asian professionals in the workplace, McGill University medical student Zhida Shang teamed up with Jennifer Kim, an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, to interview and gather stories from 35 Asian Americans or Asian Canadian professionals working in a range of different industries. These included finance, health care, technology, and higher education over the span of three months.

They uncovered several important findings about how racism against Asians can manifest at work and how Asians are responding to these forms of discrimination. They found that racial discrimination against Asians surfaced both in blatant and subtle comments and in behaviours in four different ways: portrayal of Asians as a yellow peril; microaggressions that amplified group differences, portrayal of all Asians as a monolithic group, and denial of their experience dealing with racism. The researchers say these findings highlight the imperative for leaders to help repair cross-racial relationships and create an organizational culture that is inclusive for all. 

No, I Do Belong: How Asian American and Asian Canadian Professionals Defy and Counter Workplace Racial Violence during COVID-19 by Zhida Shang and Jennifer Y. Kim was published in the Journal of Management Studies.  

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