NAAAP International Convention Speakers Tackle Tough Topics (Part 2 of 4)

Posted by Kayo Homma-Komori & filed under Leadership.

An employee counts yuan banknotes at a branch of Bank of China in Taiyuan

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Have you ever experienced racism in the workplace? How did you respond to it?

Marco Mo: 

In my experience, you will find whatever it is you’re looking for.  So I don’t look for it. To that end, I cannot say that I have ever experienced institutionalized racism in the workplace.  Everybody will encounter ignorance from time-to-time and race-based ignorance can and does come from all demographics, not just the majority population. I was born in the 70’s, had a childhood in the 80’s and became an adult in the 90’s.  Things were pretty good by the time I received my first paycheck and things have been great since.  [But] that certainly doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exists.

Lisa Strack: 

Not that I can think of, although I have heard tons of inappropriate jokes, references, etc. On a micro- level . . . yes.  Feeling that I was personally discriminated against because of my race; not blatantly. I am half Caucasian, so people often don’t know I am mixed Asian.  This has actually helped me educate others, since typically they are oblivious to my heritage, and allows me to share in a non-threatening way.

James Cheng: 

Nothing overt.

David Lum (centre)

David Lum (centre)

David Lum: 

Racism that had a negative impact on my career, never.  I’ve had very few comments that were racially-based that were based on ignorance.  I had one co-worker, who never met me face-to-face and only chatted with me on the phone, that would have never guessed I was Chinese because I spoke “perfect English”.  Annoyed, I replied back with ‘I would have never guessed you were an American by your southern accent’; he was from Alabama. I can also honestly say that coming from Midwest America, a moderately conservative area, that racism against Canadian-/American-born Asians has really gone away from the professional ranks.  I’ve seen so many Canadian-/American-born Asians and Asian immigrants move up the Corporate ladder to very senior C-levels in the past 20 years.  The trick is adapting to the culture around you.

Dave Nanderam: 

Yes. Over time you move from immediate reaction to more controlled reaction. Now, I view the racist person as the deviant in society.

Byron Abalos: 

Yup. I was once asked to audition for the role of Karate Guy in a Disney movie. The one line was ‘It is karate time!’ I didn’t go to that audition.

Teja Arboleda (right) in his early years growing up in Tokyo

Teja Arboleda (right) in his early years growing up in Tokyo

Teja Arboleda: 

Yes. I dealt with my experiences differently at different ages and different settings. Mostly, as a professional actor, I had found that rarely did I fit the ‘Asian’ contingent, as casting agents usually mean Jackie Chan, when the most popular Asian on TV has been Apu, on The Simpsons.

Paul Kay: 

As minorities, we have all faced challenges in the workplace.  I will say that over the years we have made tremendous progress in the workplace and society in general. Generally [I have responded] with humor and with the position that there is no malice in the initial comment or action followed up by a private discussion about the subject matter to educate and learn.

Fabian De Rozario:

I’ve not experienced hurtful racism in the workplace.  There have been hints of “diminished perceptions” in past – likely a combination of race-informed stereotypes and egocentric attitudes – none that I was not able to address directly in a professional way.

Next: We ask about the importance of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

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