How to handle racism

Hi everyone,

I’m a Taiwanese living in a western country. Firstly, let me say I have friends from many walks of life and they’re wonderful. However, unfortunately where I live I’ve experienced a lot of (subtle) racism. And it’s gotten worse towards Asian looking people during Covid-19. It’s made me seriously consider moving back to Taiwan, but I just got married to a non-Taiwanese spouse before Covid-19 and I don’t have a home or job in Taiwan. Just wondering for those in the same boat, what racist behaviours have you encountered? What have you done that’s effective in handling racism?

Some behaviours I’ve encountered:

  • (Mostly) Caucasian people in my neighborhood look away or don’t say hi even when I say hi or make eye contact first!

  • (Mostly) Caucasian people in upper level management refuse to include me on high profile projects, recognize my work or promote me. They treat their fellow people completely the opposite and they get promoted easily as long as they don’t make a huge mistake. It’s also difficult to just ignore them when you work together. So far my only promotions came from a Vietnamese and Hong Kong lady.

  • A Caucasian guy purposely turned his head and coughed loudly in my face when walking past me. (This was during Covid 19)

  • There are many more but in a nutshell they are disrespectful behaviour.

P.S. It was never my choice to move here. My dad (who sadly passed away) decided to and my mom wasn’t crazy about it.

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Where are you?

I live in Italy and I’ve never had anything like that related to the virus. People talk to me and are usually very nice to me as I try to be polite and nice. But maybe I just don’t notice these things. I actually prefer people to ignore me, Italians are far too friendly for me sometimes. They want to talk and talk and talk and talk.

Did they say hi before? In some places people just think it’s weird if you do this. In NYC, you might even get a F U response saying hi to people.

Could it be you’re not assertive enough? Western cultures value assertiveness. You need to make sure everyone knows what you did, that’s half of what work is in the west if you want to move up. If you really feel it’s purposeful due to race, you should talk to HR. That’s not ok.

Awful. I would just ignore it. Ignorant people don’t last long in life.

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In the UK the pecking order is…
1 European
2 African
3 East Indian
4 Chinese
And in the USA more or less the same!

The present pandemic has placed the Chinese ethnicity/Asian ethnicities at a disadvantage unreasonably, unfortunately and unluckily.

In this century USA I predict won’t be on politically and economically stable ground so having an exit plan is most beneficial for you and your future.

As nationalism and protectionism dominate the psyche in some countries there’ll be less respect for human rights and freedoms.

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The UK has a LOT more pecking orders than that :grin:
Racism sucjs everywhere but it’s not always racism I get overlooked for stuff just because I’m in Taiwan. I can never get a high position in Taiwan they won’t even give me ID. The government discriminates against me. That is the biggest problem for us foreigners here, legal discrimination.

Many of the managers in our worldwide org are now Asian and so is the CEO, it is a western company too. Many tech companies are full of Asian bossesThere are few Africans or Arabs or Muslims or black Americans though!

What you will find with American companies especially is they want a very corporate MBA type preferably educated in the US. They often have heavy discrimination in this regard. It’s not about looks but background and the ivy league.

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I’m discriminated in different ways by both local Hkers and fellow Canadians by the way.

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Hi Andrew,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m so glad to hear you don’t experience any racism where you live. I don’t wish racism on anyone. I’m in Toronto, Canada and subtle racism has been rampant even before Covid-19. To answer your questions:

  1. The general etiquette is to initiate a nod or say hello when walking in the neighborhood. People did (and still) initiate hellos and I’ve been saying hello too. It’s gotten more hostile since Covid-19 though. Sometimes my Caucasian spouse walks with me and people initiate hello and eye contact with him only but not me. (WTF lol.) When I walk alone many more Caucasians ignore me. That’s funny Italians are so affectionate towards you.

  2. It’s been an uphill battle professionally. I “promote” myself so much sometimes I feel like I’m shouting at the top of my lungs. But what those people do is they just continue to ignore you. They don’t give a sh!t. It’s very hard to prove racism because they never say or leave proof that it’s due to “race”. (A director was once caught with sexism though with proof of what he said and received a slap-on-the-wrist warning.) That’s why my promotions have come from fellow Asians. And you won’t believe I actually work in HR. Sometimes it’s the worst place (at least in my city). Maybe I need to be even more assertive without crossing the line? Idk.

  3. This is one of few instances where I experienced “overt” racism (as opposed to “subtle” racism). My husband said he’s an ignorant loser too, lol.

Sorry to hear you see so much negativity. What are the good things in your life?

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The disadvantage with migration is you can no longer live as a first class citizen. But being bilingual, biliterate and bicultural etc is truly meaningful and worth it!

Its pretty common for people to take credit for your work. Especially your supervisors that pass it off as theirs to their higher ups. I was talking to someone about how to navigate the banking world as this is common. Everyone is out for themselves as it’s highly lucrative but also high stress and work load. It attracts certain types of people who are always trying to get ahead.

He was pretty clever and started to sign his name in white in his excel documents in a cell way off in the bottom. One day he finally had a chance to talk to the people above his supervisors and he was tired of people taking credit for his work. He told them to go look at that cell he always sign his name in. And they realized he’s the real rain maker and got a nice promotion after.

It can be like that, I can’t say how your situation is and if it’s due to race. I personally have not had an issue like that but I’m the kind of person who will let everyone know who carried the team in a subtle but clear way.

My last bit of advice if things can’t resolve is to get ready to find another job. In most western countries, that’s how you climb now. Being loyal to a company isn’t worth much anymore. They don’t care about you so neither should you care about being loyal to them. I bet that firm will drop you in a second if it meant saving during a tight time. Get your CV ready and start looking elsewhere once firms start hiring again.

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This is so ironic. People who believe they’re at the “top of the list” are “high class”, while their behaviour is barbaric and very low class!

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Idk. The UK is more classist than racist IME.

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This is my experience too. The #2 exec in the big global (American) company I work for is Asian-American, the previous CEO was Iranian-American (this is technically Caucasian I believe, but one of my good friends growing up was Iranian-American too and from his experiences I know most Americans definitely did not see him as white), and many other execs are Indian-American. Hell the CEO of Microsoft is Indian-American.

The real issue in corporate management is total lack of Hispanic and Black Americans. Asian Americans are pretty well represented (at least in tech).

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Thanks for sharing. What exit plans do you have in mind?

This is hilarious/genius.

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I agree. That’s a great idea from Andrew.

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Could it be that Asians are just nerds and go into STEM at a extremely high rate? I think college enrollment is highest for asian Americans, even higher than white. I read that the gap of college enrollments between asian and blacks have gotten much wider in the last decade as well.

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Your comments here are reminding me of something that some of my Asian colleagues have confided in me (bear in mind I’m a white guy working in Hong Kong/Taiwan during these type of conversations).

What some of the colleagues I am closer to have complained to me about before is that they find it really difficult to be heard in meetings, to express themselves fully, to be taken seriously and to have influence.

Since it is an American company, they are all English speakers of course, but the ones I have heard this from are the less “Westernized” ones. Typically they grew up in Asia, and they were not from privileged enough backgrounds for their parents to send them to a string of international schools as children (many other colleagues are Asians who do come from such privileged backgrounds and they do not face those kinds of issues). So, they worked the hardest, but get the least reward for it. The world - very unfair.

A Japanese woman who is a good friend comes to mind. She always had trouble feeling she could connect to folks around the company as well as I could, or as well as the Asian-Americans or international school background colleagues working in our company could. She felt her career suffered because of that and candidly I think she was right.

These sorts of cultural gaps in the workplace can definitely be a detriment to peoples’ careers and that is a real shame.

With my Japanese friend, she always talked about her possibly joining a Japanese company instead, she applied a few times and was offered some jobs. But she hasn’t left because joining a Japanese company would come with its own set of even worse problems, namely rampant sexism.

However you slice it, it is tough as hell out there being a minority woman in the corporate world, that’s for sure.

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Being the hardest worker can be detrimental to your career. Sometimes it works against you as your supervisors want you to stay in that position grinding for them.

Office politics are a real thing in western companies. Totally unfair but you have to play the game if you want to get ahead. I still think changing companies is the best remedy to people like that. Move up vertically with a different company.

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Yes, that’s a massive part of it. Asian countries have a long history of examination systems and emphasis on education. On top of that, most Asian immigration to the US in the latter half of the 20th century was based on college education, skills categories, student visas, etc. So primarily you had top students and professionals who were able to make the leap to the US - the upper echelon of their home societies. Naturally, in the US they raised their children to pursue higher education and lucrative careers.

This of course is not a universal story. The Vietnamese-American community comes to mind - many of them came as refugees. There has been a lot of immigrant success in that community, but there is also some level of dysfunction and suffering that you can imagine with a history of war experiences and PTSD.

And then you compare to Black Americans, descended from literal slaves and systematically oppressed for at least a hundred years more once we tossed slavery. In fact, systematic legal segregation in the US didn’t start to end until the Civil Rights Act in the 60s - coincidentally, right around the same time Asian migration started to pick up due to the Hart-Celler Act in 1965. So one way to view this history is that the families of most Asian-Americans alive today were able to “skip” the worst period of US racial history. This obviously does not apply to the many Chinese-Americans whose family histories in America go all the way back to the 1800s, who had to deal with a series of purges and ethnic violence over the years.

Got a little carried away there, just agreeing with you that many more Asian-Americans today pursue STEM careers and other lucrative, high-education fields, and coloring in some of the historical reasons why that might be.

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There is a huge gap between East Asians and SE Asians in America. It’s not talked about much, but it’s there. It’s kind of nonsense to group all Asians together, but the US does that.

I think it’s a real shame black Americans are not pursuing higher education. The crazy thing is, African immigrants are highly successful and do go into higher education at a high rate. This really shows you that erasing a people’s culture is the cause imo. Black Americans don’t have a culture that places the importance in education. Some of that is on them while some of that is definitely due to historical racism.

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