The pandemic led to a challenging 24+ months for everyone but especially for people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. With the recent rise in anti-AAPI hate crimes in the U.S. and the COVID turmoil that impacted India and other regions, there’s been an increased interest in allyship and resources to support this community. But has it been enough? What can these events teach us about being better allies?
Culture Moments Host Larry Baker (he/him) is joined by Reap-n-leap Coaching and Consulting Executive Coach and DEI & Culture Change Consultant Peyina Lin-Roberts (she/her) and Intercultural Consultant Jessica Shao (she/her), who share their lived experiences as people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and what they believe are good first steps to better supporting this diverse community.
Show Notes & Highlights
7:59 Jessica and Peyina share events that impact their daily lives as Asian women
18:22 Peyina and Larry discuss how cultural difference is sometimes viewed as a threat
21:08 Peyina explains how racism pits marginalized communities against each other
27:02 The group analyzes cultural rifts that separate Black and Asian communities
36:25 Jessica describes the importance of empathy in allyship
39:31 Peyina points out the individual work behind authentic allyship
45:49 Peyina and Jessica share final thoughts and advice for DEI practitioners
Larry Baker: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker, and I am thrilled to have you join us for our second season called “Brave Conversations with LCW.” In these episodes, you’ll hear from a panel of guests from specific communities offering a range of perspectives on the past two years. We’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what has changed and, more importantly, what needs to change to move equity forward. As we all know, so much has shifted and changed over the past two years. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very difficult 24 months.
On today’s episode of The Cultural Moments Podcast, we’ll be discussing what it means to be an ally for people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. During 2021, anti-Asian hate crimes increased 339% across the United States, and remote Pacific countries and small islands face disproportionately high unemployment rates with limited access to production.
So what can these events teach us about being better allies, and what can we do to authentically support this community? To help us with this conversation, I’m joined by Peyina Lin-Roberts, who is an executive coach, DEO, and cultural change consultant at Reap-n-Leap Coaching and Consulting and Intercultural Consultant Jessica Shao, who will share their lived experiences as members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Welcome to the podcast today. What I’m gonna do is to quickly allow both of you to give a brief introduction to who you are and exactly what you do. Peyina, if you could start…
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Thank you, Larry. As Larry mentioned, I’m an executive coach and a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant working with organizations to enable their culture change. Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, is also simultaneously about culture, right? How would I introduce myself? I’m a cisgender woman of Taiwanese descent who grew up in Guatemala and Costa Rica. Culturally, at some point in time I was more Tica— which is how you refer to Costa Rican—probably more Tica than Taiwanese culturally. Never quite ChaPeyina; ChaPeyina are the Guatemalan.
I’m also a mother and a wife in a mixed-race marriage, and my parents both lived in families that at some point experienced poverty of some form. My dad didn’t wear shoes to go to school, he would save his shoes so they wouldn’t get worn off and he’d put them on at school. My mom, at some point in time during her early adulthood, had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet right with the family. And I’m the first in my family to get a PhD, to marry outside of our race, and to be an executive coach and a DE consultant. I think there’s something about my sister who became a doctor… you know, maybe I should have been something of those expected roles.
What else? I think to know me, my belief system matters, and I truly believe that we can create a better world if we can embrace difference; challenge our assumptions, our blind spots; lead with heart and curiosity rather than judgment, and be open to evolving how we think, being in this constant willingness to develop ourselves. I think I will leave space for Jessica to introduce herself. I think there’s much more that I can share about, you know?
Larry Baker: No, that’s great. Thank you. That’s great, Peyina. Thank you so much. Jessica, how about you? Give us an introduction, and tell us who you are and what you do.
Jessica Shao: Yes, it’s hard to follow Peyina’s introduction. That was so robust and very, very fascinating. My name is Jessica Shao. I moved to the US with my family from rural China when I was at the age of close to 10, and we moved to San Francisco. I am what they considered a one-and-a-half generation Chinese American because I wasn’t born in the US, so I have quite a bit of connection still with the Chinese culture and in China, more than a typical Chinese American who is born here.
So my background… I’ve done some work in intercultural communication. I’m still trying to figure out what I do, Larry. My interest is in intercultural communications, and I’ve done some training with business managers whoare relocating overseas to China or Chinese managers coming to the US to talk to these managers about the different cultures and work cultures. My training is in international development, so I’ve lived in low-income countries and developing countries around the world working on poverty alleviation issues in different communities, mostly with Indigenous communities in parts of South America and in rural China. I’ve worked in the world of philanthropy, funding nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and sometimes overseas to work on issues around social justice.
Personally, I’m a mother of two young toddlers, and I’m in [what] I would say [is] considered intercultural marriage, although not interracial. My husband is Taiwanese American who grew up being immersed in the Taiwanese culture, and I am from the southern part of China in the Canton region or Guandong region, so I grew up being immersed in the Cantonese culture. We often have cultural clashes even though we are in the same race.
I’m really excited to be here, Larry. I’m really looking forward to the conversation that we’ll be having, to learning from you and from Peyina. I think it’s great that you guys are doing this and I’m privileged to be part of this conversation.
Larry Baker: Yeah, thanks so much for joining. And Jessica, FYI, when you’re married you tend to have cultural clashes even if it’s the same culture. Just as an FYI, to share that with you. (all laugh)
So I’m gonna start with you, Jessica, and I want you to think about the past two years, or past two years or so. What have been some of your most notable events impacting your daily lived experience?
Jessica Shao: There’s two that stand to mind. One is the Atlanta shooting of women of Asian descent who worked in massage parlors in Atlanta, and I think that was March in 2021. That was earth-shattering to me personally because as an Asian woman who goes to these massage parlors to get massages, I knew who these women are. I can picture who they are, and I get choked up even speaking about it. When I read the news, I couldn’t bear to read more in the details because personally it’s shaking me because that could have been me. I could have been one of those who just happened to be in the massage parlor and then got shot, or that could have been my mother. That’s something that’s still shaking me today as we speak, and it’s affecting me daily.
I think it’s more internal in the ways that it’s affecting me: internalizing what it means to be an Asian woman in the US and some of the stereotypes that I’ve long learned about in terms of stereotyping women to be submissive, to be more sexually promiscuous. I know that we’ve seen these in Hollywood movies back in the days, and for this to happen in 2021, which is—whoever can do the math—how many hundred years since 1860? It’s earth-shattering. It’s a couple of hundred years, and I feel like we’ve made so much progress as an Asian American community at large in terms of facing really covert discrimination, yet a lot of this is still bubbling inside the American psyche. And it’s becoming more overt to me. Being able to process that is very hard, Larry, and it’s still affecting me today. A lot of this is psychological.
A series of events as you’ve heard in the media… there’s harassments and abuse of elderly Chinese men and Chinese ladies in the Chinatown community in San Francisco and in Oakland, which is the Bay Area where I live. That’s near and dear to my heart to see these 80-year-old elders, who are well respected in our in our culture. Elders are definitely people that we look up to and we care about, and to see them just get beat up randomly in the street in broad daylight. That is pretty shaking, and I know that some people in my community, in the Chinese community in the Bay Area, are afraid to go out to the streets. We see this in the media so much. We are afraid about our grandparents going out to the streets. For me personally, my grandparents passed away before the pandemic. I don’t personally worry about them, but when I do hear of these incidents, I do think about grandparents of my friends or in my community.
So these are two incidents that really stand out to me, and how does it affect me and my lived experiences as I reflect on that? In the beginning of the pandemic, my husband and I were afraid to identify ourselves as Chinese ethnicity in the public. I didn’t even feel comfortable going out to do grocery shopping. Outside of the pandemic the scariness of that, even if it was safe to go I didn’t feel safe to openly identify myself as being a Chinese woman because we would hear stories of people in a nearby community where I live where Asian people would get spit on in broad daylight. I would not feel comfortable decorating my house during Chinese New Year because I don’t wanna be targeted as a Chinese family with any hate crimes or potential hate crimes. And still today, I don’t feel comfortable doing that: identifying myself in Chinese to the broad public. So those are the experiences that affect me daily.
Larry Baker: Yeah, and Jessica, so many of the things that you mentioned just really echo and resonate with a lot of the civil unrest that’s been going on. More focused since 2020, but in the reality—just like you mentioned—it’s been going on way before that, right? You mentioned 1860. I can refer back to 1619.
Jessica Shao: Yeah.
Larry Baker: So those similar experiences still resonate today in 2022. Thank you so much for that. So Peyina, you’re up. Tell me a couple of things that have been the most impactful for you. If you want to go back the past two years, that’s totally fine, but just talk to me about some of those notable experiences.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Mm-hm. Definitely COVID 19 being a disease that people just directly associated with Chinese and therefore—because, you know, “all Asians look alike”—to all Asians regardless of what race or what nationality you are. Personally, I was at the time serving at a board that not enough… nobody had knowledge in March, 2020 about what the pandemic would do. Because my sister is a doctor in Taiwan and had to deal firsthand with the swine flu, she was warning us ahead of time, “In Taiwan people are already closing borders X, Y, and Z. Be careful, I heard there’s a case in Washington.” And so we were extremely careful.
But being an Asian person, a Taiwanese person, and trying to play by fiduciary duty and warn the board that we shouldn’t hold public event wasn’t so well received. Just personally, the credibility that I had was like none. I don’t know that that’s necessarily associated with me being Taiwanese or Asian, but there was something about being the face of that people associated with the disease. What are people gonna think of that?
In addition in those times, wearing a mask is something that’s quite common in Taiwan. People go out on the streets, they wear a mask even when there’s no pandemic because of pollution because of respect. If you’re sick, you kind of wanna protect others, and all people wear it because of pollution. But I live in Seattle, and at the time we didn’t know that outdoors is less [transmittable]. We just thought, “Let’s protect ourselves.” We wear a mask, and we would get people staring at us because it wasn’t common yet.
There was also an incident where I could sense that people had slowed down their car in order to do something. I don’t know, but I’m very aware of that: maybe throwing something at me or that kind of thing. I turned around, and they slowed down and then moved on. Since then I basically, during the early times of the pandemic, did not wanna go out and walk alone. I had to ask my husband to come along with me. So that’s one of the incidents.
And of course related to that, just like Jessica was sharing, is the hate crimes against API. I think it was in January of this year that a woman was pushed into the New York subway and died straight there. At the time I had a contract with an organization in the east coast collaborating with other diversity, equity, inclusion practitioners on offering kinda organization-wide culture change and might have required me to travel to New York. For the first time I was like, “Hey, maybe I need to go take martial arts.” (laughs) I looked up what’s the most effective martial arts because I’m thinking if someone pushes you from behind, you won’t know. Because of that thought of “this could be something that can happen to me,” I had regretted in the past—when I had the option of choosing between yoga and martial arts—choosing yoga.
So these are things that personally have affected me because being in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space particularly, I’m aware what makes us humans treat others as someone that we can exclude. It’s when we don’t see people being equal, when we see people as being a threat. And yet there I was. I am the threat. That just felt viscerally stronger than any sort of exclusion or racism that I experienced growing up, which is different. It’s like a mild exclusion because “you’re not one of us” versus “you are the virus,” right?
Larry Baker: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Wow. Peyina, that just really resonates with so many times where I will walk into a building or into a store and just automatically have people look at me differently because I’m a pretty big guy. And when people see me—big, Black guy late at night—even if it’s the most innocent trip, like going to the grocery store. Who does not go to the grocery store? But if it’s late at night, or even in certain situations mid-evening, that you go into this store, you can literally feel the atmosphere shift. It’s almost as if “what happened?” I’m looking around thinking, “Am I in danger?” But in reality, they’re looking at me because they feel like they’re in danger. That whole phenomenon of having an entire environment change just because of your presence, that really resonates with me as part of my experience just walking around in this space. I definitely appreciate both of your insights in regards to that.
Let’s move from your experiences, and maybe you can share with us some ways that you’ve noticed how these events and some other major events over the past couple of years have been impacting other people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. Peyina, if you could start, and then Jessica. We’re gonna kinda rotate it that way.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Sure thing. I’ll share some things that I observed that really, really hit core. So I live in Seattle, and one time I was walking in downtown Seattle and I saw a rally with like lots of Chinese characters and people of an older generation—you know, you can see the white hair and the gray hair, so a generation above me. I just assumed this was like a “Stop Asian Hate” type of thing. Then when I looked closer to the characters—because I do read Chinese characters and there’s was also English—my jaw dropped to the floor because what this was about was Taiwanese Americans or non-Chinese Asians doing a rally to clarify that the virus did not come from them. That they are not the Chinese that the virus came from. That they’re the good Chinese and that the virus came from the other, the Chinese from mainland China. And that hit core because isn’t that what racism does to us?
Larry Baker: Yeah, separates us.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Racism is a system where there is one group at the highest of the hierarchy, one group at the lower hierarchy, and then those who are in between will do whatever they can so that they’re not at the lower hierarchy. Absolutely. This is what the racism and structures of oppression does: it pits people who are marginalized, who are not the highest privilege, against each other because if they’re not aware about the impact that they’re having on each other, they’re gonna be fighting against each other to climb up the ladder of privilege.
I mean, I know that cause I do these trainings, and yet I hadn’t seen it person. And the Taiwanese Americans and the Chinese American thing was right there in my face. It changed back to then what really motivated me. to clarify for me that I could not just be continuing to solidify my commitment to work in solidarity against anti-Blackness. That I also needed to simultaneously be in spaces to both create safe spaces for API folks but also know that in the API folks that are experiencing this, we needed to elevate more that we’re all swimming in the same waters professionally, if you will.
Larry Baker: What you’re describing to me, Peyina, is something very similar to—I think it was a book—”crabs in a barrel.” You know how crabs act when somebody gets the opportunity to get out, and they don’t really get out because another crab is bringing them down. That whole dynamic that you were talking about, how certain groups in the AAPI were saying, “We’re not those people, so don’t judge us because they’re not us.” I think that that is so unique within your community because forever it seems like they used the AAPI community against other minority groups, saying that this was the model minority group. “See how they were able to come over here, and they were able to accomplish all these things? Why can’t you—Black people or Hispanics or whatever group—why can’t you be more like Asian Americans?” And it’s that rift that you’re talking about, that we’re all swimming in the same ocean as people of color. That unity is something we tend to overlook because we’re so caught up in saying “we’re not like them, so don’t look at us like that.” And it even happens within our own culture. That whole subculture within AAPI, that exists within the Black culture, that exists within the Hispanic culture… it definitely resonates with me, so thank you so much for sharing.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: May I add something as well? Cuz you brought up something…
Larry Baker: Yes.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: I also see good things happen, though. One of the communities that I joined is called the Black-Asian Alliance Network. These are started by individuals who are mixed-race individuals and who are in this constant tension amongst themselves because, as we know, historically the Black and Asian community have been pit against each other because of the same phenomenon that you were describing. They know that the work starts with them if they have the mixed-race within them. I just wanted to also elevate the solidarity and the work that is happening at the same time that other things are like Peyina said.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. As if we don’t have enough going on, right? Jessica, I’m gonna give you opportunity to hop in here. Tell me, talk to me, expand it. You talked about it personally. I want you, if you can, give me a little bit of expansion on others and how these events may have impacted them.
Jessica Shao: Honestly, I’ve been a mom. [It] was my biggest identity in the past few years, so I haven’t been out and about in the community and taking leadership roles in the community. So what I know is really just based on word-of-mouth and what I see in the Chinese media. I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and as I mentioned earlier, there are hate crimes against the Asian American community specifically targeting Chinese people in Chinatown. Unfortunately, I do hear stories of this tension between the Black and the Chinese community exacerbated through the pandemic because [the] pandemic has caused a lot of economic wounds on many communities, and Black communities bear a lot of it as well. People in my community see a lot of violence perpetrated by the black community, and that exacerbated this myth of the stereotype of Black people within the Chinese community. Mm-This is something that, for me, I’ve tried to reconcile with and tried to find a space for me to know what to do. How do I create this allyship, and how do we go and explore in the two different communities and converge or even just have a deeper understanding?
In San Francisco, where my family lives, it’s very closely connected with the Black community with public housing, so there’s a lot of incidents where these two communities collide. Unfortunately, it’s also where the Chinese community in San Francisco also see shootings or see robberies. And it just reinforces what they hear in the media in front of their eyes. Especially in the pandemic where we don’t go anywhere and all we get is what you hear from the media, this fear is growing, and the tension, I feel like, is forever there.
Larry Baker: Yeah, and like we said earlier, it was like almost like it was by design to pit these two groups against one another. To make them natural adversaries, if you will. To make it that much more challenging to engage in conversations with each culture. Because I know from my perspective from being a part of the Black community that a lot of the concern focuses around economics. And here’s what I mean by that: you can go into, I would say, 90% of Black or African American communities, and you’ll find some type of AAPI business in those communities. Flip that around, and I would dare to say if you find 10% of Black or African American businesses in the AAPI community… so I think at some level, the economic reciprocity is a conversation that could be influencing these negative feelings.
And when you are part of an oppressed community and they keep telling you that this culture is the model minority, you need to be like them, when we make the effort to do those things in those communities, it’s not reciprocated. It’s like we have that opening in our communities, but the economic opportunities aren’t reciprocated in the AAP community. And again, we’ve said this at the beginning: none of us are a monolith. We are not monoliths. We do not speak on behalf of the millions of individuals in the AAPI community, and I do not speak on behalf of the millions of Blacks in our community. But these are some of the conversations, from my experience, that I hear that if we start to have conversations about economic reciprocity, I think that that will begin have people at least come to the table to address the greater concerns. Now, again, that is Larry Baker’s words. Please don’t say, “Well, Larry said…” No, no, no, no, no. That was just my interpretation from my experience, and it goes right along to what you were saying earlier.
But yes, great conversation because that rift, if you will, it appears that it’s always been there. That they really made that focused, concentrated effort to pit the AAPI community against the Black community really to fight civil rights. I really feel like that was at the heart of the matter that says, “Why do Black people need civil rights when the a AAPI community, they’ve come over and they’ve been able to be successful without civil rights?” Fundamentally that’s just not the facts, right? But that’s, again, Larry’s take. Please don’t take that to the bank and say, “Well, this is what Larry said.”
Jessica Shao: Yeah. I think another thing that is not as tangible that I see rising in my community here and there is just the rising fear that’s not just fear of getting coronavirus but fear of being who you are and fear of going out to the public. And I see that not just in my family, but in people that I know. I hear it in the community, and I feel like that’s the biggest virus that we have to battle against: the fear. And how do we make it so that we know it’s fabricated? It’s intentional. That fear is a tool…
Larry Baker: It absolutely is!
Jessica Shao: … for certain groups to remain in power over another. I think maybe I’m jumping into what we wanna do. I feel like as part of this work in bringing diversity and inclusion into the table and making it daily life… It’s not just a one-off event that you would talk about or one-off conversation but how do we do this and how do we address this virus of fear. I think that’s both physical and internal and psychological. So as someone who is advocating for inclusivity, I think I would like to figure out how to do that and how to address this powerful tool of fear when it comes to racial justice.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s a great point. Jessica, like you said, you were leading me into that next question, so I’m glad that you went there. I just wanna shape it because you started to touch on… What does authentic allyship look like as opposed to performative allyship, or what do people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent need most to feel supported?
Jessica Shao: I think about this question, and I think about this fact that Chinese American has been around since 1860, and now we’re in 2022 and we’re still grappling with these issues and how deep-rooted, how pervasive, um, these stereotypes roots from the ground and how long it lasts. And also the risk and the— how should I say this?—the harmfulness of a single story about any people, any race, any culture. For me personally, as I reflect on these issues, and thinking about what can we do to reverse this pervasiveness to slowly establish these understandings across different cultures and communities… I think it’s really leaning in as an individual to hear the stories of others who are different from you. So learning about my neighbor who have a completely different set of backgrounds and who they are.
For me, it’s not so much from a macro level, from an organizational level, or from a nation what designed policies. But even as individuals, we can affect so much change from our own acts and from individual acts of just leaning into, if you have in your orbits, people of Asian descent. Simple access to just learning about who they are. “How do you say your name? What does your name mean, if there’s a meaning?” It’s something that seems very mundanely simple, but when I hear that, I feel like I belong. Larry, when I hear it from you, who wants to learn how to pronounce my name, I feel like, “Oh wow, he cares!” And that’s the strongest form of allyship—is showing that you care. Even though you don’t receive the same experiences and you don’t have the same lived experiences, you have empathy. I think for me, that’s the most authentic allyship one can have with the Asian community.
Larry Baker: Thank you so much for that, Jessica. Peyina, hop in there. I know you have some insight about, you know, “Let’s be authentic. Let’s not be performative.” Because we all have our months, right? Everybody wants to advertise during our [heritage] months and put up their banners during our months, but to me that’s purely performative. To me, that’s all about capitalism. So, Peyina, talk to me. What does it look like, in your opinion, that would move from that and would be viewed as authentic?
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Well, I’m all a hundred percent there with Jessica and what she’s saying. And our previous conversation highlighted something for me, which is that in order for us to realize how these roots in our historical systems for oppression have created intergenerational impact and continue to do so, I think what’s a very important aspect is for us to learn about history, with the hope that by learning through history we can be more aware about how we are caught in the same patterns. You need to learn from history, not just to learn facts, It’s like what is the impact?
The other thing is to be aware our own identities. Because I have an identity as a cisgender woman, Asian, and that creates privileges and marginalization in specific ways, so how does that then shape my lenses of the world. That shapes my biases and blind parts of the world. I’m gonna borrow from a very esteemed colleague who uses this; his name is Terence Harwood, and he uses this example of “Hey, most of us had an experience of killing a bug, right? When we kill a bug, what makes us think it’s okay to kill a bug?” And he goes, “It’s fear. We think they’re a threat. We think they do not deserve to live. They’re a pest. Whatever.” If we use that same sort of fear and threat towards others, then imagine. What’s the way we’re gonna behave towards that other?
Larry Baker: Wow.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Same. We treat them like a bug, right? So instead, I think what’s really important for authentic allyship is to truly be able to see someone as a human that deserves to be cared for just for being, not for what they bring to the table. And sometimes that requires a little extra effort because I know that I’m a little less friendly with my neighbors than my husband is. And part of it is the shield that I’ve built over time, where like if I’m ignored, I’m not gonna try this time. It’s this like cyclical effect.
Because here’s the deal. We go and meet people, and my husband is British so then people get really interested. “Where is your accent from?” and blah, blah, blah, blah. Then do they ever ask me? No. Like I’m just there. “Oh yeah, great. And where’re you from?” Then I start talking, and then they’re not interested anymore. With that story, what I’m trying to say is yes, you wanna treat someone as a human being, but sometimes maybe it takes a little extra effort. And yet—I’m not giving a simple answer—we have to consider people at different stages of development. If you were treating me when I was younger, when all I wanted to do was belong and be seen as not different, and you did extra with me, you’re making me stand out.
So it’s having a little patience, knowing that people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, each one of us is gonna be in our own journey of how we fit in this world, same as anyone else. It’s how to lead with curiosity, as I was saying, with respect, checking in our own biases, and being okay that maybe English is actually our most fluent language right now. Even if I have an accent at times, even if I have to mix other languages and don’t know all my vocabulary in English, it is still so far from my most fluent language. It’s just accepting the paradox of dissonance that exists in us and humanity.
Larry Baker: Okay. Yeah, I love that. You are talking about so many concepts, Peyina that in this space of DE&I we talk about: we talk about bias, we talk about culture, we talk about meeting people where they are, we talk about humility, we talk about humanity. We talk about all of these different things as practitioners. So with that lens, if you had to—because again, it’s enormous, right? You were, you were pointing out that boy, oh boy, there are so many rabbit holes that we can go down when we have these conversations. But if you had one ask for DEI practitioners and the companies who really want to promote allyship and support people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, what would that be? What would be your one ask? Peyina, I’ll ask you to start and then Jessica, you can think of yours because I’m gonna ask you the same question. So Peyina, you first. What’s that one ask if you had that magic wand. “Here’s what I want it to be.”
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Mm-hm. That is such a good and difficult question to answer because that one ask. I think it relates to something I just mentioned earlier, but it’s being able to release expectations and assumptions about someone’s category, identity, or whatnot. Right?
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s good!
Peyina Lin-Roberts: A simple example is me. If I started speaking in Spanish, you wouldn’t know I’m Asian, except for now I’m a little more broken. But this has literally happened to me. It’s like not just the social identity of like what language you speak or what is your cultural identity—not just that—but also being able to hold the kind of dissonance or paradox that this person may be in this many ways quote-unquote “Asian” because they’re humble, they don’t necessarily stand out or like lead in certain ways, and yet in many others they’re gonna be direct and demand for what they they need. And then don’t use the double bind to then say, “Hey, you are not a good cultural fit.” It’s like being able to hold that within one individual, they can have multidimensional characteristics that don’t fit preexisting social boxes.
Larry Baker: Yeah, or all the different levels of intersectionality, right?
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Yeah.
Larry Baker: Because you’re never really just one thing. It’s just like you said, in one instance you can be an Asian business executive, but in the next moment you’re a wife, you’re a mother, you’re a volunteer, or what have you. So all of those intersectionality points have to be considered, and we have to put down all of those preconceived notions or stereotypes and biases that we have towards individuals. We want ’em to fit in this nice little box, and when they go outside of that box it’s like, “Whoa, what’d you do that for? This is what I thought you were going to be, and you’re totally not that.”
So thank you so much, Peyina. Okay, Jessica, one ask.
Jessica Shao: Yeah. That was very good.
Jessica Shao: My ask would to be able to somehow increase our tolerance for dissonance. How can you and I create space for these diverging opinions and worldviews can come together and actually speak to each other? Not in any accusatory or not in any hierarchical ways mm-hmm, but how can we create the space for people of varying backgrounds, varying beliefs to just talk to each other, even though we know that I believe in something that’s very different than what you believe in?
I think for me it’s something that’s so, so important for our country, for that political environment that we live in right now. For me as an individual and for me as a mother, as I think about raising the next generation of women in America, how can I give this superpower to my daughters so that they learn to listen to those who don’t believe the same things that they do. It’s one ask, but it’s also multiple asks to be able to do that and to have the listening skills and to have that opening mind to be able to lean in to hear other people’s stories.
Larry Baker: And Jessica, you talk about a concept that I often refer to as “we have to give each other grace.” We have to understand that everyone has a different experience, and we wanna make room for those experiences. And then when we have differences in our experiences, we have to be willing to engage in that conversation without the judgment, without the criticism, without the negativity. That is actually fighting a tendency that we’ve almost been ingrained to have this negative view towards other people or other cultures experiences, and ultimately what’s at the root of that is—in my opinion, again—that people profit from us having these conflicts because it’s easier to pit this group against that group. They realize that if those groups ever came together, yikes. That could be really powerful. That could be revolutionary. That could be the evolution of us moving to this society that hopefully was supposed to happen when America was founded.
But when we start putting all those things aside and start saying, “Hey, let’s start to build on all of our experiences in such a way that we’re bridging, coming together, and creating space for everyone to have those individuals experiences, but we bridge them and merge them in such a way that we see the best in each other.” I think that that’s that ultimate level of conversation that we need to get to.
So thank you both for coming on today. This was amazing! Jessica, I know that I’ve worked with you in the past, but Peyina, I think it was an incredible opportunity to meet with you and to discuss with you. I’d like to give you both the opportunity because if someone heard something throughout this podcast and they’re like, “Wow, I’d really like to hear more about that,” how can they reach out to you to make contact? Jessica, if you could talk about your preferred method, and then Peyina, I’ll give you an opportunity to do that as well.
Jessica Shao: Yeah, I’m wide open to the public via LinkedIn, so if you want to carry the conversation, I’d love to speak with you and hear from people.
Larry Baker: Awesome.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Yeah, same here. I’m also on LinkedIn, and I welcome people to connect or message me there as well.
Larry Baker: Perfect. Thank you both so much for this incredibly important topic, and I just love to have conversations where I can see connections in regards to how it reflects an experience that I have in this country as well. Thank you both for your time, and for those of you that have joined us, hopefully there was something that you can take from this and then begin to apply in your journey of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.
Peyina Lin-Roberts: Thank you, Larry.
Jessica Shao: Thank you.
Larry Baker: You are welcome.
And to all of you that are listening, we wanna know what were your biggest takeaways from this conversation. Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn at Language and Culture Worldwide or LCW.