I was working from my home office when my 20-year-old daughter called me, saying, “Dad, I was driving to class and I bumped into another car at a stoplight.” She and the other driver were now in a parking lot and both OK.

I was fortunate that the scene of the accident was 12 minutes away. Upon my arrival, a police officer was in his car, writing his report. The other driver was sitting in his own vehicle.

After consoling my daughter and asking for more details, I went to talk with the other driver. I immediately apologized for the accident.

He replied calmly that there was no real damage to his bumper. Upon my own inspection I found a barely noticeable scratch. When I asked him if he wanted our insurance information, he replied that there was no need for it.

At that point, I began to wonder: Why in the world did he decide to call the cops?

I live in New Jersey and, in my experience, a minor bump-to-bumper “tap” was nothing to call the police about. But he did. Why?

And why did the police officer write my daughter a ticket for such a minor infraction? Was it the accident itself? Or was there something else?

Later my daughter told me that the other driver, a white, middle-aged male, had swelled with anger after the accident and forced her to call the police. Upon my arrival, his attitude changed dramatically. My daughter also said that she was respectful, told the driver she was sorry, and that she would take full responsibility.

Could the reason for calling the police, and the police giving her a ticket, be because my adopted daughter is Korean? Did my presence as a white guy change the driver’s demeanor?

Since the declaration that COVID-19 was somehow manufactured in China and relabeled the “China Virus,” we have witnessed an increase in attacks targeting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals.

News channels throughout the country have cited numerous examples. Stop AAPI Hate, an Asian American advocacy coalition, received over 2,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate between March 19 and December 31, 2020.

The homicide of George Floyd along with the call to action by the Black Lives Matter movement have brought renewed attention to racism in America. Company leaders have been initiating discussions about racial injustice and discrimination in the workplace. We have also seen companies sponsor affinity groups that focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

FEI has also seen a spike in requests for guided discussions and EDI trainings. Despite the increased calls for awareness and action, many advocates say employers aren’t doing enough to support AAPI employees who may be facing discrimination.

In a recent article on CNBC Make It, Jennifer Liu provides insight from recent interviews with Michelle Kim, CEO of the diversity training provider, Awaken, and consultant/author Kim Tran. Here’s an excerpt:

One reason why more people aren’t speaking up on the news, whether they’re Asian American or not, may be due to a continued erasure of AAPI discrimination in the U.S. through what’s known as the model minority myth, which holds the economic advancement of some Asian American individuals as a measure that AAPIs as a whole don’t experience racism.

“Part of the myth is that we stay quiet, we’re apolitical, that issues we’re experiencing are not valid or are not attached to our race,” Kim says. “There’s a continual investment in upholding this myth, and we need to question who benefits from it, because it’s not us or other marginalized people.”

Whether related to perceived cultural norms or otherwise, some Asian Americans may feel the need to power through the normal routines of their day despite the many challenges of living through a pandemic, and on top of increased violence targeted toward people who look like them and their families.

To Asian Americans feeling this way, Kim says, “I really hope people are able to take the space and time they need to process what they’re feeling, and to not minimize or invalidate that for themselves.

“My wish for them is to be able to create space to grieve and process trauma,” she continues, “and do that in community so they’re not alone — if they can reach out to people, even if it’s coworkers, friends, on social media or getting involved with grassroots organizations — be in community with other people who understand your pain.”

Tran adds that Asian Americans concerned about the news and how it’s impacting them should check in with themselves first. “Sometimes there are days I feel like this can power me through the work I do, because I do work on equity and racial justice. And sometimes I just want some space around it and to take a day off. You have to be your own judge when it comes to stuff like that.”

If your workplace has practices around taking time for yourself, like mental health days or flexibility to extend deadlines or rearrange meetings, consider using those resources.

If you feel taking time to prioritize your well-being could impact your job performance, you may want to bring that up with a manager. Doing this may feel uncomfortable, so Tran suggests connecting your needs to your organization’s commitments to values like equity and belonging.

“This is something that explicitly creates diversity and inclusion — if there’s space for employees to say, ‘Hey, it’s Lunar New Year, and there’s an uptick in anti-Asian violence, and I’m not doing well,’” Tran says. “Organizations should be able to provide that space.”

The simplest thing managers and organizational leaders can do for their Asian American employees is to use their privilege to acknowledge the recent news of anti-Asian violence, and give space for impacted individuals to process, grieve and heal.

“In talking to other diversity, equity and inclusion leaders,” Kim says, “what I’m noticing is a vast majority don’t know how to talk about issues around Asians of America in a nuanced and complex way. There’s such a lack of existing knowledge and practice around how we talk about this.” She adds that unless leaders have been active in studying the history of and being involved in conversations about the Asian experience in America, “most people end up focusing on race as a very Black and white issue.”

As a provider of  Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and Organizational Development trainings, FEI can help organizations with their own EDI initiatives. To learn more about our consultative approach and how we help guide organizations, please contact your account manager. To schedule an initial consultation, please contact us.