William Moss, Director of Reputation Communications, Intel
The killing of eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta this week, is a sad capstone to a year of growing violence against Asian Americans and Asian people living in America. While the violence in Atlanta is drawing attention to the longer-term problems of racism against Asians and Asian Americans, it’s easy to imagine the attention receding as the headlines inevitably do.
I hope that isn’t the case. This issue is personal to me because of my family. My wife is ethnic Chinese; we were married in Singapore nearly twenty years ago. My son, Zachary, born while we were living in China, is mixed race. Now thirteen, and growing up in Silicon Valley, he is at an age where he will have to learn to navigate his identity in ways he didn’t have to grapple with when he was younger and less self-conscious.
I think about this because I feel poorly qualified to help him understand his identity as an Asian American, especially when there is news like this week’s. I grew up white in San Francisco. I lived in Asia for nearly twenty years, and racial caste systems were everywhere, but white expatriates are privileged in such systems, or at least exempted from them. Even my wife, an immigrant to the U.S., doesn’t have the same frame of reference. The representation issues that matter to Asian Americans don’t resonate with her the same way.
So, what can I do? Well, I can be there for him. I can listen to his experiences and be respectful and understanding of them. When he asks for advice, I will give it. Where he needs support, I will provide it. Where he wants to set his own path, I will let him. Where I see injustices that will impact him, I will take action and speak up. When I trespass, I will try to listen, learn and not be defensive. And I can try to make this country a better place for Asian immigrants, Asian Americans and, indeed, everyone else. Ultimately, that’s all I can offer anyone.
Honestly, I shouldn’t need to have an Asian American son to be aware of racism any more than men should need to have daughters to start thinking about gender issues. But there is power to an issue being personal. Maybe we all need to look for the points of relevance that make otherwise abstract social issues real to us.
Even if not in our families, we all know people in our lives and workplaces impacted by racism, gender discrimination and other forms of discrimination, and if we don’t see them, we’re not looking. If greater awareness drives us to act and motivates us to keep problems from receding in the great wash of headlines, so much the better.
My wife and I moved to the United States from China in 2013 because we believed that this would be the best place for our multi-ethnic son to grow up. We still believe that. But the last year has shown that the U.S. could still be so much better. As an Intel employee, I’m proud that Intel recognizes this issue and supports the COVID-19 Hate Crime Act (H.R. 1843) legislation, which will address the rise of hate crimes and violence targeted at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
I treasure being part of a multi-ethnic household, and I want America to be able to revel in being a multi-ethnic nation. For my son’s sake, and everyone else’s, I will do my best to make that happen. I will keep looking.